To their credit, U of I and Intuitive have since pulled the ads, and the university says it's running a thorough investigation to determine why so many senior leaders made a decision that was out of step with the organization's code of conduct.
"As a large and complex organization that adheres to high standards, the U of I is compelled to tell its public this fact: the University is run by fallible human beings," University spokesman Thomas Hardy acknowledged in a statement. "It is operated by people trying their best. We regret when those efforts fall short."
What I'll be looking to see, if the report's findings are made public, is if the university and hospital put a process in place to make sure marketing decisions like this don't slip through the ethical cracks again. And if they do, that's something every hospital and health system should take note of.
"In a large health system, mistakes are going to happen. On occasion, physicians are going to act independently in a manner that could negatively impact the image of the organization," Dunlop says. "The health system or university has to communicate clearly—and frequently—with its physicians and vendors that any communication of an endorsement, implied or otherwise, is a breach of university policy."
Unfortunately, in this case Benedetti and the rest of the hospital's decision makers found out the hard way that "free publicity" often comes at a high cost.