AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 7

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Case 7.1: Indigent Care—Volunteering at the Clinic

Option Comparison

The volunteer medical care that Dr. Mills provides at the clinic is clearly fulfilling the expectations of the Code. However, the Code purposely does not mandate how medical care for the indigent should be provided. Instead, Opinion 9.065, "Caring for the Poor" recognizes that: "The measure of what constitutes an appropriate contribution may vary with circumstances such as community characteristics, geographic location, the nature of the physician's practice and specialty, and other conditions."

Option A—convincing other physicians to volunteer—is preferable because it could provide more resources (in terms of hours and expertise) for the medical care of the poor. Option B—finding alternative times to volunteer during non-practice hours—and option C—seeking employment at an institution serving the poor—are both acceptable. If Dr. Mills pursues option C, he must ensure that he does not put his current patients at risk. According to the Code it is not acceptable to leave care for the poor entirely up to others, as in option D. Accordingly, option D should be avoided.

Preferable: Option A

Acceptable: Options B and C

Avoid: Option D

Additional discussion and information

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