AMA chair responds to AJC article

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American Medical Association Board of Trustees Chair Patrice A. Harris, M.D., submitted the following letter to the editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to respond to an article – ‘AMA tackles sex abuse – of doctors, by doctors’ – that appeared in the AJC on June 5. 

Dear Editor,

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a strong commitment to eliminating sexual harassment, discrimination and physician misconduct. As workplaces and technology evolve, so too must the specifics of our policies. Behavior that constitutes sexual harassment is unethical and unlawful.

Last year’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution series on physician misconduct highlighted troubling instances of sexual contact. For decades, the AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics – the foundational document for America's physicians – has made clear that sexual contact or sexual relations between physicians and patients are unethical and detrimental to a patient’s wellbeing. 

At our upcoming Annual Meeting, the AMA will consider new proposals to extend sexual harassment policies beyond the physician office and beyond the AMA’s own employees, to cover all attendees of AMA meetings – physicians and all others – wherever the AMA convenes to conduct business. This new policy bolsters our commitment to highest ethical conduct for physicians.

Rooting out instances of unethical or criminal behavior within the profession is a vital job of state-run systems of physician oversight and regulation. Guided by our Code of Medical Ethics, we will continue to work toward those ends. 

Preserving patient trust and safety is of paramount importance to the AMA and the overwhelming number of physicians who behave ethically in their care of patients and interactions with their colleagues.

Sincerely,

Patrice A. Harris, M.D.
Chair, American Medical Association