Physician’s code of Ethics and Medical Marijuana

Excerpted from the AMA’s current opinions on the physician’s code of ethics - http://www.ama-assn.org

The Principles of Medical ethics of the AMA article III states “A physician shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes in those requirements which are contrary to the best interests of the patient.”

The following are other portions of the Physician’s code of ethics which relate to medical marijuana:

Section 1.02 – ‘The Relation of Law and Ethics’: “Ethical values and legal principles are usually closely related, but ethical obligations typically exceed legal duties.  In some cases, the law mandates unethical conduct.  In general, when physicians believe a law is unjust, they should work to change the law.  In exceptional circumstances of unjust laws, ethical responsibilities should supersede legal obligations.”

Section 2.17 – ‘Quality of Life’: “In the making of decisions for the treatment of… persons who are severely disabled by injury or illness, the primary consideration should be what is best for the individual patient and not the avoidance of a burden to the family or to society. Quality of life, as defined by the patient’s interests and values, is a factor to be considered in determining what is best for the individual. It is permissible to consider quality of life when deciding about life-sustaining treatment.”

Section 2.24 – ‘Impaired Drivers and Their Physicians’: “A tactful but candid discussion with the patient and family about the risks of driving is of primary importance.”

Section 5.05 – ‘Confidentiality’:The information disclosed to a physician during the course of the relationship between physician and patient is confidential to the greatest possible degree.”

Section 5.06 – ‘Confidentiality: Attorney-Physician Relation’: “The patient’s history, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis may be discussed with the patient’s lawyer with the consent of the patient or the patient’s lawful representative.”

Section 8.06 – ‘Prescribing and Dispensing Drugs and Devices’: “(1) Physicians should prescribe drugs, devices, and other treatments based solely upon medical considerations and patient need and reasonable expectations of the effectiveness of the drug, device or other treatment for the particular patient… (6) Patients have an ethically and legally recognized right to prompt access to the information contained in their individual medical records. Since a prescription is part of the patient’s medical record, the patient is entitled to a copy of the physician’s prescription for drugs or devices, including eyeglasses and contact lenses. Therefore, physicians should not discourage patients from requesting a written copy of a prescription.”

Section 8.20 – ‘Invalid medical treatment’: “(3) Among the treatments that are scientifically valid, medically indicated, and offer a reasonable chance of benefit for patients, some are regulated or prohibited by law; physicians should comply with these laws.  If physicians disagree with such laws, they should seek to change them.”

Section 9.012 – ‘Physicians’ Political Communications with Patients and Their Families’: “In addition, physicians have a responsibility to work for the reform of, and to press for the proper administration of, laws that are related to health care. Physicians should keep themselves well-informed as to current political questions regarding needed and proposed changes to laws concerning such issues as access to health care, quality of health care services, scope of medical research, and promotion of public health.”