Case and Commentary
Jan 2005

Volunteering at the Clinic, Option Comparison

Abraham P. Schwab, MA
Virtual Mentor. 2005;7(1):117-120. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.2005.7.1.ccas20b-0501.


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


Virtual Mentor. 2005;7(1):117-120.



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 in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.