AdvertisingAdvertising by physicians or health care institutions is unethical when it contains statements that are unsubstantiated, false, deceptive or misleading, including statements that mislead by omitting necessary information.
The Physician and SocietySociety has conferred professional prerogatives on physicians with the expectation that they will use their position for the benefit of patients. In turn, physicians are responsible and accountable to society for their professional actions. Society grants each physician the rights, privileges and duties pertinent to the patient–physician relationship and has the right to require that physicians be competent and knowledgeable and that they practice with consideration for the patient as a person.
Obligations of the Physician to SocietyPhysicians have obligations to society that in many ways parallel their obligations to individual patients. Physicians’ conduct as professionals and as individual citizens should merit the respect of the community.
All physicians must fulfill the profession’s collective responsibility to advocate the health and well–being of the public. Physicians should protect public health by reporting diseases, as required by law, to the responsible authority. They should support public health endeavors that provide the general public with accurate information about health care and comment on medical subjects in their areas of expertise to keep the public properly informed. Physicians should regard interaction with the news media to provide accurate information as an obligation to society and an extension of medical practice but must always be mindful of patient confidentiality.
Physicians should help the community recognize and deal with the social and environmental causes of disease. They should work toward ensuring access to health care for all persons and help correct deficiencies in the availability, accessibility and quality of health services in the community.
Resource AllocationIncreasingly, decisions about resource allocations challenge the physician’s primary role as patient advocate. There have always been limits to this advocacy role: For example, a physician is not obligated to lie to third–party payers for a patient or to provide all treatments regardless of their effectiveness. Resource allocation pushes these limits further by compelling physicians to consider the best interests of all patients and of each patient. The just allocation of resources and changing reimbursement methods present the physician with ethical problems that cannot be ignored. Two principles are agreed upon:
- As a physician performs his or her primary role as a patient’s trusted advocate, he or she has a responsibility to use all health–related resources in a technically appropriate and efficient manner. He or she should plan workups carefully and avoid unnecessary testing, medications, surgery and consultations.
- Resource allocation decisions are most appropriately made at the policy level rather than entirely in the context of an individual patient–physician encounter. Physicians should participate in decisions at the policy level, should emphasize the value of health to society and should base allocations on medical need, cost–effectiveness of treatments, and proper distribution of benefits and burdens in society.