Ethics

Physician Responsibilities to Impaired Colleagues

Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 9.3.2

Physical or mental health conditions that interfere with a physician’s ability to engage safely in professional activities can put patients at risk, compromise professional relationships, and undermine trust in medicine. While protecting patients’ well-being must always be the primary consideration, physicians who are impaired are deserving of thoughtful, compassionate care.

CME course: Physician wellness & professional conduct

This e-learning module will help physicians identify and understand their ethical obligations to maintain their own wellness and help fellow colleagues who may be impaired.

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To protect patient interests and ensure that their colleagues receive appropriate care and assistance, individually physicians have an ethical obligation to:

(a) Intervene in a timely manner to ensure that impaired colleagues cease practicing and receive appropriate assistance from a physician health program.

(b) Report impaired colleagues in keeping with ethics guidance and applicable law.

(c) Assist recovered colleagues when they resume patient care.

Collectively, physicians have an obligation to ensure that their colleagues are able to provide safe and effective care. This obligation is discharged by:

(d) Promoting health and wellness among physicians.

(e) Establishing mechanisms to assure that impaired physicians promptly cease practice.

(f) Supporting peers in identifying physicians in need of help.

(g) Establishing or supporting physician health programs that provide a supportive environment to maintain and restore health and wellness.

AMA Principles of Medical Ethics: II