Are Medical Technology Companies in it for Profit or Medical Science

There are two levels of analysis that need to be considered when determining whether medical technology companies are in it for profit or for medical science. On one level we must consider the motives of the company in its own right, whilst on another level we must consider the motives of the individual workers who make up the company. These two levels of analysis appear to offer contradictory results.

On the level of the company, like with companies in any other area, the profit motive is the central one. They not only want to maximize their profits but they are expected to as a matter of good business practice. Their business plan, their chosen research activity, their willingness to publish research results, and the pricing of their products will all reflect this even if their mission statement talks about wanting to advance medical science or help people.

On the level of the individuals that make up those companies things are quite different. Although there will inevitably be some individuals, particularly in the administration staff of the company, who are more interested in profit, most of the actual medical research staff are more likely to be driven more by the motive of advancing medical science. They are trained professionals who see it as their vocation and they will strive to achieve medical breakthroughs in their chosen areas.

The contradictory motives found at the two levels are a source of conflict in the company. The company wants to constrain its workers to concentrate on more profitable plans. On the other hand, many of the individual workers would like to move things in directions that may be speculative or costly but which they believe are promising areas of research.

Ultimately, this leads to a degree of give and take on both sides, with companies willing to sometimes go with some of the suggestions of their medical research staff to try to keep them happy whilst in return the medical research staff agree to keep working mostly on the profit maximizing projects.

So the bottom line is that whilst the companies are in it for the profit motive, the effects of individual researchers allows the medical research motive to be partially expressed in the behavior of the company.