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For the fourth time in its 153-year history, the Chicago-based American Medical Association began the process last month of revising its Principles of Medical Ethics, citing a need to update the standards for a new era.
The association’s House of Delegates will vote on a final revision at its annual meeting in June. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, the governing body charged with interpreting the principles, is urging the House of Delegates to revise its principles to keep pace with rapid changes in the medical environment and develop ethical guidelines for areas previously not addressed in the principles.
Among the key passages, a strong statement is included emphasizing the physician’s responsibilities to the patient being paramount. Another passage indicates that physicians are dedicated to providing care to all and therefore support access to care for all.
Aside from access for all, the 14 obligations include:
• deliver high quality care;
• implement preventive medical services;
• promote public health;
• do not discriminate;
• self-regulate and enforce high professional standards;
• advocate for patient interests;
• place patient interests above personal interests.
The U.S. Living Will Registry announced in late December a new Web site for assisting hospitals with advance directive planning.
The unlimited free service from the Westfield, NJ-based organization under the same name, is available to all hospitals to assist patients in determining their health care choices should they become incapacitated. According to the organization’s research, between 25% to 30% of Americans actually have an advance directive in place. Conversely, 35% of advance directives cannot be found when they are needed.
Hospital personnel can visit the site (www.uslivingwillregistry.com) and download a free guide offering instructions on how to stage a Living Will Fair to promote community awareness of advance care planning.
Officials in Oregon’s Department of Human Services Health Division say the state’s 1998 Medical Marijuana Act is working just as intended.
To legally qualify to participate, patients must obtain a physician’s recommendation and register with the health division to receive an identification card. The $150 registration fee helps fund the program. The registry’s first year resulted in 594 patients participating. Last year, an additional 474 patients joined the registry, according to a report released last October.
"Oregon was the first to implement a statewide registration system for patients," says Martin Wasserman, MD, administrator of the Oregon Department of Human Services Health Division. "Our first-year review shows the system is working as it was intended. A substantial number of qualified patients and their physicians are using it, and only a very few inquiries from law enforcement officials regarding patients have occurred."
During the first year — May 1, 1999 to April 30, 2000 — statistics of the registry include the following:
• males accounted for 70% of the 594 patients who registered;
• average age of participants was 46, with patient ages ranging from 14 to 87 years old;
• 67% of patients used medical marijuana to control severe and chronic pain;
• 329 physicians provided the required medical documentation for the 594 patients (since April 30, 2000, the number of physicians increased to 438);
• 60% of patients requested a registration card for their primary caregiver, who helps manage their well-being, and may help administer the medical marijuana.