Endorsement by current patients can be a strong incentive to direct new patients to a medical practice and physicians often rely on word of mouth as a source of referrals. However, to be ethically appropriate, word-of-mouth referrals must be voluntary on the part of current patients and should reflect honestly on the practice.

Physicians must not offer financial incentives or other valuable incentives to current patients in exchange for recruitment of other patients. Such incentives can distort the information patients provide and skew the expectations of prospective patients, thus compromising the trust that is the foundation of patient-physician relationships.

AMA Principles of Medical Ethics: I, II, VIII

Code of Medical Ethics: Professional Self-Regulation

Visit the Ethics main page to access additional Opinions, the Principles of Medical Ethics and more information about the Code of Medical Ethics.

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