Proposed Amendment to the AOA Code of Ethics and New “Rules and Guidelines”. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2012;112(5):257–259. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2012.112.5.257.
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Section 3. A physician-patient relationship must be founded on mutual trust, cooperation, and respect. The patient, therefore, must have complete freedom to choose her/his physician. The physician must have complete freedom to choose patients whom she/he will serve. However, the physician should not refuse to accept patients FOR REASONS OF INVIDIOUS DISCRIMINATION, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, because of the patient's race, creed, color, sex, national origin, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY or handicap. In emergencies, a physician should make her/his services available.
Professionalism is a core competency expected of all physicians. Physicians are among the most highly educated and trained professionals in our society and should enjoy the respect of their peers and the community. Society expects them to perform various roles. As health care providers, they diagnose and treat patients; as advisors, they provide patients with an understanding of their health status and the potential consequences of decisions regarding treatment and lifestyles; as advocates, physicians communicate with patients, their caregivers, and their health insurers about the needs of the patient; and as counselors, they listen to their patients and discuss their condition with family members and others involved in health care decision-making. Physicians are entrusted by their patients and their patients' families with private and confidential information, much of which is related to health care but frequently includes other personal details.
Osteopathic physicians, in order to enjoy the continued respect and trust of society, recognize the responsibilities and obligations they bear and in order to maintain their status as professionals, must act accordingly. Medical ethics includes many tenets that should guide osteopathic physicians in their professional and personal activities. Although ethics and professionalism encompass broad concepts, some of the recognized elements are:
The AOA's Code of Ethics offers rules to guide physicians in their interactions as physicians with their patients, with society, and with the AOA. This document is intended to supplement the Code of Ethics by providing rules and guidance for physicians' conduct as professionals in the broader context beyond the traditional role in the delivery of care. Some of the Rules and Guidelines are mandatory (i.e., “shall” or “shall not”), while others are permissive (i.e., “may,” “should,” “should not” or “may not”) and recognize a physician's discretion to assess the specific context and situation and exercise professional judgment.
Finally, the Rules and Guidelines are designed by the AOA to provide guidance to physicians in appropriate professional behavior and to provide a structure for regulating conduct. Any assessment of a physician's conduct must be made with due consideration to the facts and circumstances that existed at the time of the conduct in question and recognize that a physician may have had to act based upon uncertain or incomplete information. The Rules and Guidelines are not intended to be a basis for civil liability. Rather, perceived failure of a physician to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by the Code of Ethics or these Rules and Guidelines is a basis for invoking the AOA's disciplinary process through the Bureau of Membership's Subcommittee on Ethics.
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