New AMA Code of Ethics acknowledges more complex world


The AMA Code of Ethics has been updated to provide doctors with guidance that is both relevant to contemporary clinical practice and reflective of societal change over the last ten years.

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon told the limbic the 2016 revision acknowledged issues such as the tension between limited health resources and the almost limitless opportunities to provide medical care.

“Nothing should ever change the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, but we now need to consider resource allocation and the impact of our decisions on other patients. We have to be careful stewards of healthcare resources,” he said.

Dr Gannon said changes to the code also reflected a focus on other relationships – such as between the doctor and the patient’s family and between health professionals.

“For example, with genetic testing, we now understand the decisions we make and how we counsel patients also affect other members of the family.”

The Code of Ethics includes new items such as avoiding providing care where there is a close personal relationship; recognising patients may have impaired, fluctuating or limited decision-making capacity; and reporting bullying or harassment in the workplace.

More details have been included in the new document on issues related to consent, conscientious objection, complaints, control of patient information, fees and professional boundaries.

Dr Gannon said previous sections on the dying patient and transplantation have been superseded by separate AMA position statements and were removed from the new Code of Ethics.

There has also been a slight change in the wording regarding specialists’ responsibilities to inform or consult with GPs when a patient requires referral to another specialist.

The older version advised specialists to “only make the referral following discussion with the patient’s GP — except in an emergency situation”.

However, the updated version changes ‘only’ to ‘ideally’.

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