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?

Option Assessment

A.  

Telling patients for whom they should vote should be avoided.
According to Opinion 9.012, "Physicians' Political Communication with Patients and Their Families," "Conversations about political matters are not appropriate at times when patients or families are emotionally pressured by significant medical circumstances. Physicians are best to judge both the intrusiveness of the discussion and the patient's level of comfort."

B.  

Providing patients flyers and instructions on how to notify their elected representatives is an acceptable activity under Opinion 9.012, "Physicians' Political Communications" as long as patients do not feel pressured to take the flyers. This opinion clearly states that physicians should not allow their positions on political matters to interfere with the delivery of high-quality professional care.

C.  

Providing patients with information and opinions related to health care issues is the preferred course of action. Opinion 9.012, "Physicians' Political Communications" states that, in "fulfilling their 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….In addition, "it is natural that in fulfilling these political responsibilities, physicians will express their views to patients or their families."

D.  

Explaining to patients that it is not appropriate to discuss political issues is an acceptable course of action. While Opinion 9.012, "Physicians' Political Communications" acknowledges the right of physicians to express their views when appropriate, it mandates that they do so with due consideration. The responsibility for judging whether the discussion is within the patient's level of comfort lies with the physician.

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