On April 28, 2020, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a series of guidance related to ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AMA released this guidance in response to the ethical challenges many healthcare professionals and organizations are facing caused by the burden COVID-19 is placing on the healthcare industry nationwide. To aid healthcare professionals, the AMA’s guidance consists of a series of analyses that apply the AMA Code of Medical Ethics (the “Code”) to certain ethical issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AMA’s guidance covers a wide range of topics, from allocating limited sources to responsible prescribing practices during the pandemic. The AMA plans to continue posting new analyses as ethical issues related to COVID-19 continue to emerge. Currently, the AMA has released the following guidance:
- AMA Code of Medical Ethics: Guidance in a pandemic
- Restrictive covenants and patient care in a pandemic
- Graduating early to join the physician workforce
- Prescribing medications responsibly in a pandemic
- Providing patient care remotely in a pandemic
- Fair access to limited critical care resources
- Clinical research versus patient care: Conducting clinical trials
- Caring for patients at the end of life
- Clinical research versus patient care: Access experimental treatment
- AMA Declaration of Professional Responsibility
- Obligations to protect health care professionals
- Access and health equity during a pandemic
- Speaking out on issues adversely affecting patient safety in a pandemic
- Protecting public health & vulnerable populations in a pandemic
- Physicians in the media: Responsibilities to the public and the profession
- Use of patient registries during public health emergencies
- Research ethics in a public health crisis
In addition to the analyses released by the AMA, the Code also contains key guidance for health care professionals and institutions responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the Code’s Opinion 8.3 (“Physician’s Responsibilities in Disaster Response and Preparedness”) and Opinion 11.1.3 (“Allocating Limited Health Care Resources”) would apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opinion 8.3 provides guidance for how physicians should respond to disasters both individually and collectively. The measures suggested in 8.3 focus on developing policies to protect physicians responding to a disaster, as they are a limited and key resource in combating disasters.
Opinion 11.1.3 provides guidance on how to allocate scare health care resources fairly amongst a provider’s patients. Specifically, the opinion provides four criteria healthcare professionals should adhere to when allocating scare resources: (1) base allocation policies on medical need; (2) first priority should be given to patients for whom treatment will avoid premature death or other extremely poor outcomes; (3) resource allocation should be objective, flexible and transparent; and (4) providers should explain the allocation policies to patients who are denied access to scare resources and to the public.
The AMA’s guidance applies to a plethora of potential ethical issues that healthcare professionals may face while combating COVID-19. As such, healthcare professionals should review the AMA’s guidance and develop its policies regarding COVID-19 accordingly.
For any questions regarding the AMA’s guidance or ethical issues that may arise during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Adrienne Dresevic, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org, or your regular HLP attorney, or Partners@thehlp.com, or call (248) 996-8510.