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17 Mar 2017

The AMA has released its revised Code of Ethics, which was updated in 2016 and ratified by the AMA Federal Council at its November meeting.

For the first time since 2006, the Code has been substantially reviewed, culminating in the Code of Ethics 2004. Editorially Revised 2006. Revised 2016.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said a Code of Ethics was essential for setting and maintaining the expected standards of ethical behaviour within the medical profession.

“The AMA’s Code of Ethics incorporates the values of the profession,” Dr Gannon said.

“The Code articulates and promotes a body of ethical principles to guide doctors' conduct in their relationships with patients, colleagues, and society.

“While the primary duty of doctors is to serve the health needs of individual patients, they have additional, and occasionally competing, duties in relation to other patients, patients’ family members and carers, colleagues and other healthcare professionals, the wider health system, and the public health.

“The AMA places a very high priority on its Code of Ethics, and encourages all doctors to observe its values and principles,” Dr Gannon said.

The updated AMA Code of Ethics for the first time addresses:

  • close personal relationships;
  • patients with impaired or limited decision-making capacity;
  • patients’ family members, carers and significant others including support persons;
  • working with colleagues including bullying and harassment;
  • working with other health care professionals;
  • supervising/mentoring; and
  • health standards, quality and safety.


The updated Code also provides greater clarity on consent; conscientious objection; complaints; control of patient information; fees; professional boundaries; managing interests; stewardship; medico-legal responsibilities; and protecting others from harm.

It has also been drafted to be consistent with AMA policies on:

·         advertising and endorsement;

·         conscientious objection; 

·         Declaration of Geneva (pledge);

·         Declaration of Tokyo (torture);

·         doctors’ health;

·         ethics in custodial settings;

·         independent medical assessments;

·         medical certificates;

·         medical professionalism;

·         medical records;

·         medical witnesses;

·         patient examinations;

·         patient follow-up;

·         professional autonomy and clinical independence;

·         professional boundaries;

·         public health emergencies;

·         relationships with industry; and

·         regulations in times of armed conflict.

During the course of reviewing the Code, State and Territory AMAs were given the opportunity to suggest amendments on an earlier draft.  Following incorporation of their suggestions, the draft was further updated and sent to MDA National and AVANT for their comments. This was to ensure it did not inadvertently conflict with their medico-legal advice. Staff at the Medical Board of Australia also reviewed it to ensure it did not conflict with Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia. 

The AMA Code of Ethics 2004. Editorially Revised 2006 is at:

Chris Johnson

Published: 17 Mar 2017