Government in Your Patient-Physician Relationship?

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The American College of Physicians is concerned about the government's interference in the patient-physician relationship and released a paper offering a framework for evaluating laws that affect or could affect the relationship.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is concerned about the government’s interference in the patient-physician relationship. The organization released a paper today offering a framework for evaluating laws that affect or could affect the patient-physician relationship.

Statement of Principles on the Role of Governments in Regulating the Patient-Physician Relationship

The was produced by the ACP’s Health and Public Policy with input from ACP’s Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee.


David L. Bronson, MD, FACP, president of ACP, said in a statement. “

“The physician’s first and primary duty is to put the patient first,” To accomplish this duty, physicians and the medical profession have been granted by government a privileged position in society.”

, such principles are necessary as recent laws and proposed legislation seem to “intrude” into the medical profession and affect the relationships between patients and physicians, according to Bronson.


For instance, these laws limit the information a physician can disclose to a patient and yet others require that physicians discuss practices even if the physician doesn’t believe they are individualized to the patient.

Another concern is that physicians are being prohibited from asking about risk factors that affect the health of the patient or his/her family.

“Physicians should not be prohibited by law or regulation from discussing with or asking their patients about risk factors, or disclosing information to the patient, which may affect their health, the health of their families, sexual partners, and others who may be in contact with the patient,” according to the paper.

The paper outlines seven questions to consider when a new law is proposed to restrict the patient-physician relationship. The first question is whether the content and information or care consistent with the best available medical evidence on clinical effectiveness and appropriateness and professional standards of care.

“Laws and regulations should not mandate the content of what physicians may or may not say to patients or mandate the provision or withholding of information or care that, in the physician’s clinical judgment and based on clinical evidence and the norms of the profession, are not necessary or appropriate for a particular patient at the time of a patient encounter,” according to the paper.

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