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Political Action by Physicians

Physicians have an ethical responsibility to seek change when they believe the requirements of law or policy are contrary to the best interests of patients
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Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 1.2.10

Like all Americans, physicians enjoy the right to advocate for change in law and policy, in the public arena, and within their institutions. Indeed, physicians have an ethical responsibility to seek change when they believe the requirements of law or policy are contrary to the best interests of patients. However, they have a responsibility to do so in ways that are not disruptive to patient care.

Physicians who participate in advocacy activities should:

(a) Ensure that the health of patients is not jeopardized and that patient care is not compromised.

(b) Avoid using disruptive means to press for reform. Strikes and other collection actions may reduce access to care, eliminate or delay needed care, and interfere with continuity of care and should not be used as a bargaining tactic. In rare circumstances, briefly limiting personal availability may be appropriate as a means of calling attention to the need for changes in patient care. Physicians should be aware that some actions may put them or their organizations at risk of violating antitrust laws or laws pertaining to medical licensure or malpractice.

(c) Avoid forming workplace alliances, such as unions, with workers who do not share physicians’ primary and overriding commitment to patients.

(d) Refrain from using undue influence or pressure colleagues to participate in advocacy activities and should not punish colleagues, overtly or covertly, for deciding not to participate.

AMA Principles of Medical Ethics: I, III, VI

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