Ethical behavior is defined in terms of morality and is recognized as the mark of a good and decent person and, likewise, of a trustworthy organization. Although we value it in all aspects of life and have been dismayed by its flagrant absence in some modern examples in the business world and in government, it is, of course, most critical for
those individuals and organizations whose actions touch our very lives. Professionals responsible for the health and welfare of society, whose actions can literally save or take a life, should appropriately be held to higher ethical standards.Likewise, organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), long trusted to provide critical information to healthcare providers, the public, patients, and policy makers,
and thus with the ability to have a profoundly beneficial impact on society, must similarly follow the highest ethical standards. The foundation of all we do is based on the
public’s trust. It is for this reason that the AHA, in partnership with the American College of Cardiology (ACC), sponsored the recent Bethesda Consensus Conference on Ethics and
Professionalism, the proceedings of which are reported in this issue of
Circulation The topics covered were wide ranging, from issues of potential conflict of interest in research involving human subjects, to a discussion of the nature of
academic independence, to disclosure of conflicts in presentations.