Since its adoption at the founding meeting of the American Medical Association in 1847, the AMA Code of Medical Ethics has articulated the values to which physicians commit themselves as members of the medical profession. Together, the Principles of Medical Ethics and the Opinions of the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs that make up the Code offer guidance to help physicians meet the ethical challenges of medical practice.
The Code is a living document, updated periodically to address the changing conditions of medicine. A new edition, adopted in June 2016, is the culmination of an 8-year project to comprehensively review, update and reorganize guidance to ensure that the Code remains a timely, easy to use resource.
Read the Code Preface and Preamble to see how the Code uses the words "must," "should" and "may" in their common understandings to distinguish different levels of ethical obligation.