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Ethics Timeline: 1981 to 2009

AMA adopts resolution calling for increased representation among women and minority physicians

Judicial Council becomes Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs

AMA provides professional guidelines relating to a physician's personal, clinical and public conduct relating to AIDS

AMA passes resolution opposing acts of discrimination against AIDS patients and any legislation that would lead to such categorical discrimination or that would involve patient-physician confidentiality

AMA adopts policy prohibiting investment of AMA funds in tobacco stocks and urging medical schools and parent universities to eliminate investments in corporations that produce or promote use of tobacco

In School Board of Nassau County v. Gene H. Arline, US Supreme Court rules that individuals with infectious diseases are considered "handicapped" under anti-discrimination laws, and decisions as to whether they are "otherwise qualified" for employment should be based on "reasonable medical judgments" made on a case by case basis, as outlined in a friend-of-the-court brief provided by the AMA

AMA develops National HIV Policy reiterating physicians' ethical responsibilities to treat HIV patients whose condition is within the physicians' realm of competence

AMA files brief on behalf of Cruzan family in US Supreme Court caseCruzan v. Missouri Department of Health; AMA holds that the guardian has a right to refuse medical treatment for a patient in a persistive vegetative state. Court later rules that states have the right to regulate food withdrawal

AMA adopts guidelines governing gifts to physicians from industry

AMA passes resolution declaring physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician's professional role

AMA drafts the Patient Protection Act. Elements of the Act were included in every health system reform bill reported out of committee in both the House and Senate

JAMA publishes an issue examining tobacco industry through corporate documents of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company

AMA drafts the Patient Protection Act II bill with two goals: protection for patients through increased disclosure requirement and managed care fairness; and physicians need to have defined rights and protections from arbitrary separation from managed care plans

In conjunction with the AMA's sesquicentennial observance, "Ethics and Modern Medicine," the AMA's first ethics conference is held in Philadelphia, the city of the AMA's founding

AMA renews its emphasis on medical ethics by establishing the Institute for Ethics. The Institute's mission is to provide a forum for the timely exploration and discussion of the tough decisions now affecting physicians and their patients. The Institute provides practical physician outreach and guidance as well as scholarly research for end-of-life issues, genetics, professionalism and managed care

The AMA's Task Force on Association/Corporate Relations develops definitive standards that guide the conduct of corporate relationships involving the AMA and produces a report on such principles, standards, and guidelines

Named after the co-writers of the original Code of Medical Ethics, the AMA selects its first recipient of the Isaac Hays, MD and John Bell, MD Leadership in Medical Ethics Award

Through an educational grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the AMA Institute for Ethics' Educating Physicians on End-of-Life Care project provides training to practicing physicians on the core skills needed to provide quality end-of-life care

The AMA founds the Virtual Mentor, an online ethics journal. The journal is open-access and advertisement-free, and explores the ethical issues and challenges that students, residents, and other physicians are likely to confront in their training and daily practice. For this reason, the journal is a valuable teaching resource for medical educators at all levels as well as for doctors and doctors-to-be.

AMA revised its Principles of Medical Ethics to emphasize a physician's responsibility to the patient as paramount during the care of that patient, and that a physician shall support access to medical care for all people

Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs drafted the Declaration of Professional Responsibility: Medicine's Social Contract with Humanity. The declaration, adopted by the House of Delegates at the 2001 Interim Meeting, serves as a reaffirmation of professional standards by the world community of physicians

The AMA launches a new national initiative “The Communication of Ethical Guidelines for Gifts to Physicians from Industry” as a means to urge physicians and industry representatives to adhere to AMA ethical guidelines regarding gifts.

The AMA House of Delegates approves recommendations from the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, which state that cloning for biomedical research is consistent with medical ethics.  The recommendations also include the critical importance of appropriate oversight and safeguards for subjects involved in such research.

The AMA's Ethics Resource Center selects 10 U.S. and Canadian medical school partners for its Strategies for Teaching and Evaluating Professionalism (STEP) program which encourages the design of innovative methods for teaching professional competencies and for evaluating the success of those methods.

The Ethical Force Program® releases "Ensuring Fairness in Health Care Coverage Decisions:    A Consensus Report on the Ethical Design and Administration of Health Care Benefits."  The report indicates five general criteria to be used in health care coverage decisions in addition to providing more than 70 recommendations to enable organizations to fulfill these criteria.

The AMA House of Delegates set new ethical guidelines for physicians providing retainer services, sometimes known as "boutique care."   The guidelines ensure that physicians who provide additional care or special services in return for retainer fees deliver the same standard of care to all patients.

The AMA issues new ethical guidelines addressing quarantine and isolation treatment to help physicians adequately balance public health goals with the interests of individual patients during epidemics.

The Ethical Force Program, led by the AMA’s Ethics Resource Center, releases a consensus report, “Improving Communication – Improving Care: How health care organizations can ensure effective, patient-centered communication with people from diverse populations.”

A group convened by the AMA’s Institute for Ethics publishes "African American Physicians and Organized Medicine, 1846-1968." Appearing in the July 16 edition of JAMA, the piece investigates the Association’s relationship to and positions on race. Following publication of the article, AMA issues an apology for its historical role in discrimination against African-Americans in organized medicine.

At its Interim 2009 meeting, the AMA’s House of Delegates reaffirms policy that unequivocally states that physicians “must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason.”