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 1

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Case 1.3: Physicians' Political Communications with Patients and Their Families—Who Should I Vote For?

Case Presentation

Dr. Allworthy has been a physician for nearly 35 years. He has many long-time patients with whom he often engages in non-medical conversations about vacations, new restaurants, good movies, etc. When asked about changes in health care, he usually sighs and says, "Being a doctor isn't what it used to be!" Given the upcoming election and the candidates', as well as media's, attention to health care-related issues such as rising malpractice insurance, costs for medication, and changes in Medicare, Dr. Allworthy's patients are beginning to press him for his opinions on these subjects and to ask for whom he is voting. Since elected officials at local, state, and federal levels will be tackling many of these issues through policy decisions and specific statutes, Dr. Allworthy is thinking that he should inform his patients about what he believes is in their best interests and who he believes is the best candidate.

What should Dr. Allworthy do about involving patients in political advocacy? (select an option)

A.   In the 30 days preceding the national election, tell patients who inquire which candidates they should vote for.
B. Hand out flyers with instructions on how patients can inform their elected representatives of their positions on proposed legislation.
C. When patients ask his opinion, provide them with an overview of the issues and what particular options will mean for health care in general.
D. Explain that it is not appropriate for him to discuss political issues with patients –even health-related issues.
The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.