Diversion has various different meanings in the world of ethics.
Distraction. An idea or activity serves as a distraction from what’s important. For example, @juliapowles uses the term “captivating diversion” to refer to ethicists becoming preoccupied with narrow computational puzzles that distract them from far more important issues.
Substitution. People are redirected from something harmful to something supposedly less harmful. For example, switching from smoking to vaping. See my post on the Ethics of Diversion – Tobacco Example (September 2019). And in the 1840s, a Baptist preacher and temperance activist organized excursions to divert people from drinking. His name: Thomas Cook.
Unauthorized Utilization. Using products for some purpose other than that approved or prescribed for a given purpose in a given market. There are various forms of this, some of which are both illegal and unethical, while others may be ethically justifiable.
- Drug diversion, the transfer of any legally prescribed controlled substance from the individual for whom it was prescribed to another person for any illicit use.
- Grey imports. Drug companies try to control shipments of drugs between markets, especially when this is done to undercut the official drug prices. However, some people regard the tactics of the drug companies as unethical. Médecins Sans Frontières, the medical charity, has accused one pharma giant of promoting overly-intrusive patient surveillance to stop a generic drug being diverted to patients in developed countries.
- Off-label use. Doctors may prescribe drugs for a purpose or patient group outside the official approval, with various degrees of justification. For more discussion, see my post Off-Label (March 2005)
Exploiting Regulatory Divergence. Carrying out activities (for example, conducting trials) in countries with underdeveloped ethics and weak regulatory oversight. See debate between Wertheimer and Resnick.
Amy Kazmin, Pharma combats diversion of cheap drugs (FT 12 April 2015)
Julia Powles, The Seductive Diversion of ‘Solving’ Bias in Artificial Intelligence (7 December 2018)
David B. Resnik, Addressing diversion effects (Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 2015) 428–430
Alan Wertheimer, The ethics of promulgating principles of research ethics: the problem of diversion effects (J Law Biosci. 2(1) Feb 2015) 2-32