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What are ethics violations in medicine?

What exactly are medical ethics?

It all goes back to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take -- which holds them to a high standard of ethics and a moral code. Sometimes, that can be tough standard to meet and a physician makes an all-too-human mistake.

Other times, patients get angry with a physicians they feel have wronged them and file complaints with the state's medical licensing board unfairly.

Either way, the physician has to answer to any complaints, so it's important to understand ahead of time what really is and isn't unprofessional conduct:

Poor record keeping is a major problem for many physicians. The transition to computer records hasn't exactly made it any better -- generally because physicians have a weak understanding of how the computer records work.

The best thing a physician can do is treat the computer record like a paper one and remember the rule to "never erase, only amend." An erased remark can still be recovered in the computer system and shows potential duplicity on the physician's part. An amended record shows transparency and honesty.

Patient abuse can take a number of different forms. For example, getting involved romantically with a patient can be considered patient abuse because there's an imbalance of power inherent in the physician-patient relationship.

On the other hand, simply refusing to prescribe something a patient wants or telling a patient something he or she doesn't want to hear isn't considered patient abuse unless it was done without regard to the patient's mental or physical condition.

Violating a patient's privacy and confidentiality is a serious issue that no physician wants to happen. Sometimes the problem comes in when couples are involved and a physician reveals information to them together instead of insisting on a private meeting with one of them.

For example, if a husband and wife routinely see their physician together and recent blood work indicates the wife has picked up a venereal disease, that's sensitive information that should be discussed with her alone. At that point, she and the physician can discuss options and she can make the decision about what she reveals to her husband. As much as the physician may feel an obligation toward her spouse, it's important not to violate physician-patient confidentiality.

Administrative hearings on ethics require experienced legal assistance. If you're facing a professional license hearing, consider getting help today.

Source: AMA, "Frequently Asked Questions on Ethics," accessed Dec. 01, 2017

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