ACP tells government to stay out of doctor-patient relationship

There's been plenty of recent controversy over government involvement in healthcare, mostly in the context of health reform and the manner in which physicians are paid. But it's the potential impact of numerous state laws throughout the country--such as Florida's gun gag law and many states' various abortion-related rules--that prompted the American College of Physicians (ACP) to take a stance against government intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, MedPage Today reported.

"The physician's first and primary duty is to put the patient first," ACP President David Bronson said in a statement announcing the release of the ACP's paper, "Statement of Principles on the Role of Governments in Regulating the Patient-Physician Relationship." The problem, Bronson said, is that "some recent laws and proposed legislation appear to inappropriately infringe on clinical medical practice and patient-physician relationships, crossing traditional boundaries and intruding into the realm of medical professionalism."

According to the ACP, its paper offers a framework for evaluating laws and regulations affecting the patient-physician relationship, rather than taking a position on specific restrictions or mandates. Thus, this framework outlines seven key principles of how it believes governments should and shouldn't be involved in the way physicians communicate with and treat patients.

In particular, the ACP states that physicians shouldn't be kept from discussing risk factors with patients or disclosing information that affects their health. And when it comes to treating patients, the ACP says that physicians should not be required to provide services that are not medically necessary or violate the patient's values.

"Physicians should be guided by evidence-based clinical guidelines that allow flexibility to adapt to individual patient circumstances," the paper states. "Statutory and regulatory standards of care may become 'set in concrete' and not reflect the latest evidence and applicable medical knowledge."

Overall, the guidelines stress that physicians should have the freedom to communicate with patients as they see fit, assess situations on a case-by-case basis, acknowledge that science may change over time and not be subject to undue stress of burden from government regulations.

To learn more:
- read the article from MedPage Today
- see the post from the Examiner
- read the ACP's Statement of Principles (.pdf)
- see the statement from the ACP