Ala. Admin. Code r. 540-X-9-.07 - Position Statement Of The Alabama Board Of Medical Examiners Concerning The Physician-Patient Relationship

(1) The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners recognizes the movement toward the restructure of the delivery of health care and the significant needs that motivate that movement. The resulting changes are providing a wider range and variety of health care delivery options to the public. Notwithstanding these developments in health care delivery, the duty of the physician remains the same: to provide competent, compassionate, and economically prudent care to all his or her patients. Whatever the health care setting, the Board holds that the physician's fundamental relationship is always with the patient, just the as Board's relationship is always with the individual physician. Having assumed care of a patient, the physician may not neglect that patient nor fail for any reason to prescribe the full care that patient requires in accord with the standards of acceptable medical practice. Further, it is the Board's position that it is unethical and unprofessional for a physician to allow financial incentives or contractual ties of any kind to adversely affect his or her medical judgment or practice care.
(2) Therefore, it is the position of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners that any act by a physician that violates or may violate the trust a patient places in the physician places the relationship between physician and patient at risk. This is true whether such an act is entirely self-determined or the result of the physician's contractual association with a health care entity. The Board believes the interests and health of the people of Alabama are best served when the physician-patient relationship remains inviolate. The physician who puts the physician-patient relationship at risk also puts his or her relationship with the Board in jeopardy.
(3) The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners is involved in the process of licensing physicians as a part of regulating the practice of medicine in this state. A license to practice medicine grants the physician privileges and imposes great responsibilities. The people of Alabama expect a licensed physician to be competent and worthy of their trust. As patients, they come to the physician in a vulnerable condition, believing the physician has knowledge and skill that will be used for their benefit.
(4) Patient trust is fundamental to the relationship thus established. It requires the following:
(a) that there be adequate communication between the physician and the patient;
(b) that there be no conflict of interest between the patient and the physician or third parties;
(c) that intimate details of the patient's life shared with the physician be held in confidence;
(d) that the physician maintain professional knowledge and skills;
(e) that there be respect for the patient's autonomy;
(f) that the physician be compassionate;
(g) that the physician be an advocate for needed medical care, even at the expense of the physician's personal interests; and
(h) that the physician provide neither more nor less than the medical problem requires.
(5) The Board believes the interests and health of the people of Alabama are best served when the physician-patient relationship, founded on patient trust, is considered sacred, and when the elements crucial to that relationship and to that trust--communication, patient privacy, confidentially, competence, patient autonomy, compassion, selflessness, and appropriate care--are foremost in the hearts, minds, and actions of the physician licensed by the Board.
(6) This same fundamental physician-patient relationship also applies to physician assistants.

Author: Patricia E. Shaner, Attorney for the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners


Ala. Admin. Code r. 540-X-9-.07
New Rule: Filed May 20, 1996; effective June 24, 1996.

Statutory Authority: Code of Ala. 1975, ยงยง 10-12-45, 34-24-53.

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