Patient confidentiality. End-of-life care. Birth control for minors. Issues involving medical ethics show up in the exam room every day. So having a go-to resource with authoritative ethics guidance is crucial to a physician’s ability to address the ever-evolving challenges of contemporary practice.

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The new AMA Code of Medical Ethics website,, makes that guidance available free of charge in an easy-to-use, searchable format with oodles of related content to help physicians, medical students and other stakeholders navigate thorny ethical issues.

Completed in late 2022 to coincide with the AMA’s 175th anniversary, the Code website is built for everyday use.

“There is no intellectual property of the AMA that's older than the Code—not JAMA, not FREIDA, not the AMA Physician Masterfile,” noted Audiey Kao, MD, PhD, vice president of ethics at the AMA.

In fact, the AMA was founded in large part to establish the world's first national code of medical ethics. The Code was its very first document and is still widely recognized as the most comprehensive ethics guide for physicians.

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“The 1847 version has needed to evolve over time because medicine and society have changed,” Dr. Kao said, adding that a comprehensive update (PDF) of the Code was completed in 2016. “Ethical issues that never would have been considered, say, 150 years ago are front and center now. Take, for example, abortion ethics, which we thought were settled but no longer are. Or genetic and prenatal testing. Or using social media professionally.”

“Having a digital site for the Code enables us to create a user-friendly format for physicians, medical students, journalists, researchers and even the public—because while the Code sets expectations about physician conduct, that conduct is always in service to patients,” Dr. Kao said.

The site’s search engine delivers relevant results from all of the Code’s 11 chapters, which cover patient-physician relationships, caring for patients at the end of life, professional self-regulation and more.

Clicking any of the search results will also bring up numerous helpful related resources.

“Guidance in the Code often requires you to understand a constellation of ethical opinions, not just one in isolation,” Dr. Kao said. “So within any given opinion, you will get links to other relevant opinions. That simple functionality enables users to appreciate the interwoven nature of medical ethics as embodied in the Code.”

The new Code website also includes translational materials such as ethics cases and legal briefs.

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“Reading the guidance in the opinion is helpful, but having these kinds of educational materials helps users understand how to translate the opinions in practice. They make the Code readily applicable and relevant to real-world situations,” Dr. Kao said.

Related resources also include links to the AMA Principles of Medical Ethics that are relevant for each ethical opinion as well as a PDF of AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs reports showing how and when an opinion was adopted and amended as policy by the AMA House of Delegates.

“Today, medicine—and the Code with it—is called to again look beyond clinical care and biomedical science to examine critically medicine’s relationships with society and to respond to the damage wrought by continuing injustice within and outside the profession,” the website says. “For the Code, the challenge going forward is to codify medicine’s ethical responsibility to join the work of unmaking the structures and policies that have so profoundly and adversely affected individuals and communities.”

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