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 2013, Volume 15, Number 1:28.

The Code Says

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The AMA Code of Medical Ethics’ Opinion on Informing Patients about Treatment Options

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics’ opinions on informing patients about treatment options.

Opinion 8.08 - Informed Consent

The patient’s right of self-decision can be effectively exercised only if the patient possesses enough information to enable an informed choice. The patient should make his or her own determination about treatment. The physician’s obligation is to present the medical facts accurately to the patient or to the individual responsible for the patient’s care and to make recommendations for management in accordance with good medical practice. The physician has an ethical obligation to help the patient make choices from among the therapeutic alternatives consistent with good medical practice. Informed consent is a basic policy in both ethics and law that physicians must honor, unless the patient is unconscious or otherwise incapable of consenting and harm from failure to treat is imminent. In special circumstances, it may be appropriate to postpone disclosure of information, (see Opinion 8.122, “Withholding Information from Patients”).

Physicians should sensitively and respectfully disclose all relevant medical information to patients. The quantity and specificity of this information should be tailored to meet the preferences and needs of individual patients. Physicians need not communicate all information at one time, but should assess the amount of information that patients are capable of receiving at a given time and present the remainder when appropriate.

Issued March 1981, updated November 2006, based on the report “Withholding Information from Patients (Therapeutic Privilege),” adopted June 2006.



Communicating Evidence in Shared Decision Making, January 2013

Effective Ways to Communicate Risk and Benefit, January 2013