The year that was. The year ahead
2016 proved to be a pivotal year for the role of ethics in the AMA. For the first time, the AMA consulted directly and extensively with members on one of the most sensitive and potentially divisive ethical issues in medicine, the role of the medical profession in euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.
From the outset, the AMA made a conscious commitment to ensure that all members were directly engaged and provided with a range of opportunities to express their views during the policy review process. We also made the conscious decision to ensure that the entire review process including the member survey results and all Federal Council discussions and decisions were made transparent to members.
While not every member is going to agree with the policies outlined in the Position Statement on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide 2016, I hope our commitment to consultation and transparency reassures each member that we are sincere in engaging your views on issues of ethical importance to the medical profession.
While the euthanasia and physician assisted suicide policy review certainly dominated the ethics agenda in 2016, several ethics and medico-legal guidelines for members were updated as well, including the Ethical Guidelines on Independent Medical Assessments 2010, Ethical Guidelines for Doctors Acting as Medical Witnesses 2011. Revised 2016, and the Guidelines on Medical Certificates 2011. Revised 2016.
The Position Statement on the Doctor’s Role in Stewardship of Health Care Resources 2016 was also finalised in 2016. It focusses on avoiding or eliminating wasteful expenditure in health care, maximising quality of care and protecting patients from harm while ensuring affordable care in the future.
The year ended with the approval of an extensive update to a foundational AMA policy document: the Code of Ethics 2004. Editorially Revised 2006. Revised 2016. Reviewed for the first time in 10 years, the updated Code will be released shortly.
2017 looks to be another busy period of review of AMA ethics policy. We have a number of ethics (and medico-legal) based policies up for review covering issues such as genetic testing, human cloning, patient examination and professional boundaries.
The review of AMA policy on medical practitioners’ relationships with industry will be particularly challenging, covering issues such as managing real and potential conflicts of interest, industry sponsored research, industry-sponsored meetings and activities, hospitality and entertainment, promoting industry interests, product samples, dispensing by doctors and relationships with industry representatives.
The review of AMA policy on organ and tissue donation and transplantation will be a highlight of the year. Addressing issues such as donor choice (and consent systems), public education, donor families, living donors, organ and tissue allocation, consent to transplantation, organ trafficking, workforce and infrastructure, and quality and safety, the review will include a panel discussion session on organ donation at this year’s AMA National Conference in Melbourne.
The AMA has also adopted a range of World Medical Association statements and declarations. This year, we will be reviewing the update of the (AMA adopted) WMA Declaration of Tokyo Guidelines for Physicians Concerning Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Relation to Detention and Imprisonment.
If you have any questions regarding the AMA’s current ethics agenda, please refer them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMA ethics-based position statements, reports, guidelines and other publications, including the Member Consultation Report on the Review of AMA Policy on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide, can be found on the AMA website under Ethics & Professionalism at https://ama.com.au/advocacy/ethics-professionalism
BY DR CHRIS MOY, CHAIR, AMA ETHICS AND MEDICO-LEGAL COMMITTEE
Published: 16 Feb 2017