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18 Oct 2016

Medical ethics applies a moral code to the practice of medicine, guiding doctors to recognise moral issues arising out of patient care and dealing with them in a rational and principled manner.

As a core component of medical professionalism, medical ethics defines us as doctors. In return for the privilege of a significant level of professional autonomy and clinical independence, patients and the wider community trust us to develop, maintain and adhere to an ethical code that enshrines a high standard of behaviour and professional conduct

Medical associations around the world recognise 18 September as Medical Ethics Day. Established by the World Medical Association (WMA), the Day is a way for the global medical community to recognise and promote the important role of ethics in medicine. A central objective of the World Medical Association, which came into being on 18 September 1947, has been to establish and promote the highest possible standards of ethical behaviour and care by doctors.

The AMA plays an important role in promoting the highest standards of ethical behaviour expected of doctors in Australia, upholding the rights of doctors to fulfil their ethical obligations to patients and society, and advocating for a fair and just health system for all.

The AMA’s Code of Ethics provides guidance to doctors in their relationships with patients, colleagues and society. It enshrines the core values of the profession, including respect for patients, their family members, colleagues and other health care workers, trust, compassion, altruism, integrity, advocacy and justice, accountability, leadership, collaboration and collegiality.

While the modern health care environment is one that evolves and changes over time, and is reflective of the current social, economic and political environment, doctors continue to have an ethical duty to ensure that the health needs of patients remain their primary focus, and to advocate that the health care environment remains patient-centred. 

The Code of Ethics is currently being updated to ensure it continues to meet contemporary professional and societal expectations for ethical professional behaviour, and that it supports doctors in their commitment to the primacy of patient care. This will be the twelfth update of the Code since 1964, and the fourth since we entered the 21st century. 

In addition to serving the medical profession and the wider community, the Code of Ethics establishes overarching ethical principles that underpin all AMA policies.

Further, we have developed a diverse range of ethics-focussed position statements and guidelines to support our members, and to advocate for patients and the wider health system, covering issues such as medical professionalism; professional conduct; patient care and safety; conscientious objection; reproductive health; end of life care; genetic issues; organ donation; public health emergencies; asylum seekers and refugees; aged care; custodial settings; and stewardship.  

The AMA has also formally adopted a range of declarations from the World Medical Association, providing a sound basis for advocacy on issues including professional autonomy and clinical independence; the role of medical neutrality in times of armed conflict; and condemning medical participation in any form of torture, cruel or inhumane treatment or punishment.

We encourage all members to utilise the AMA’s ethics-focussed position statements and guidelines which are publicly available in the Ethics & Professionalism section of the AMA's website at

The current Code of Ethics is available at We will keep members informed when the updated Code has been approved and becomes publicly available.   

If you have any questions regarding the Code of Ethics or any other ethics-related position statements or guidelines, please send them to  


Published: 18 Oct 2016