The medical profession has long subscribed to a body of ethical statements developed primarily for the benefit of the patient. Likewise, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) recognizes that its members have certain ethical obligations to their patients, profession, and each other, as well as to the community and world at large. As a member of the medical profession, an AATS member must recognize and respect these obligations.
The AATS Code of Ethics sets standards and provides guidance for AATS members in their professional activities, both within the organization and in their provision of health care generally.
The AATS Code of Ethics sets forth the governing principles, values, and beliefs shared by all members of AATS, as well as the ethical behavior and standards of conduct expected in conformance with these principles and beliefs.
1. Relationship with Patients
1.1 When caring for patients, members must hold the patient’s welfare paramount.
1.2 In all dealings with patients, members should act fairly, in good faith, honestly, and with compassion and respect for patients’ dignity and rights.
1.3 Members should practice medicine within the scope of their training, experience, and license, should not accept lay interference in professional medical matters, should seek appropriate consultation for problems that are beyond their competence, and should provide appropriate supervision for trainees.
1.4 Members should use their best efforts to protect patients from harm by recommending and providing care that maximizes anticipated benefits and minimizes potential harms.
1.5 Members must make pertinent medical information available to patients (or surrogate decision makers) to enable them to make informed choices about their health care, and should respect patients’ right to make final decisions about their own health care.
1.6 Members must maintain the confidentiality of patients’ health information within the constraints of law, and should provide medical information to the patient’s family and the public only with the consent of the patient (or surrogate decision makers).
1.7 Members must not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or any other basis that would constitute medically unjustified discrimination.
1.8 Members should responsibly steward the use of health care resources under their supervision without compromising patient care and welfare.
1.9 In advertising and other publications directed toward patients and the public, members must refrain from makingfalse, deceptive or misleading statements, or other statements not susceptible to verification by the public.
2. Relationship with Other Professionals
2.1 Members should uphold the standards of professionalism and be honest in all professional interactions. In upholding standards, they should report to the appropriate legal, regulatory or peer-based entity health care professionals whose competence or professional conduct adversely affects or could affect the health or welfare of patients.
2.2 Members should act fairly, in good faith, honestly, and respectfully in all their dealings with ancillary staff and other health care professionals.
2.3 Members experiencing substance abuse or physical or emotional/psychological impairment should seek appropriate assistance and limit their practices to ensure the impairment does not adversely affect the health or welfare of patients.
2.4 Members who observe substance abuse or physical or emotional/psychological impairment in a colleague should counsel the colleague, and if the abuse or impairment persists, should report it to appropriate authorities.
2.5 Members should cooperate in legal, regulatory or peer-review processes in connection with alleged incompetence or unprofessional conduct, whether their own or that of other members.
3. Relationship with AATS
3.1 Members serving on behalf of AATS or in any other professional capacity shall endeavor to base their opinions and decisions on objective data, both published and from personal experience, and avoid bias.
3.2 Members should honor their fiduciary, legal, and professional obligations in serving their professional organizations.
3.3 Members should work toward the attainment of the mission and objectives of AATS.
4. Relationship to the Community and to Government
4.1 Members should comply with state and federal laws and regulations governing the practice of medicine, but should work to modify laws and regulations that are unjust or harmful to patients or to the profession.
4.2 Members should report patient abuse, neglect or harassment to the appropriate authorities.
4.3 Members should be involved in the community and should support policies and changes that are in the best interests of patients and health care generally.
5. Responsibility for Life-Long Learning
5.1 Members should be actively involved in continuing medical education activities to ensure the continual development of their skills, training, and expertise.
5.2 Members should maintain their professional qualifications through continuous study consistent with evidence-based scientific practice.
6. Responsibilities as Scientists
6.1 When conducting research, members should maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity, always employing accepted scientific methods.
6.2 Members involved in the conduct of research should comply with all institutional and governmental regulations pertaining to such research, as well as adhering to the ethical practices required by the Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki.
6.3 When conducting a clinical investigation, members must demonstrate the same concern for the welfare, safety, and comfort of human subjects as is required of a physician when caring for a patient who is not part of an investigation.
6.4 Members should expose scientific fraud and other forms of professional misconduct whenever they observe it.
7. Expert Witness Testimony
7.1 Expert witness testimony is considered the practice of medicine and is subject to peer review. Members whose testimony is false, deceptive, misleading or without medical foundation, or otherwise violates this Code of Ethics may be subject to disciplinary action by the AATS. Standards for qualifications of those who wish to serve as expert witnesses and behavioral guidelines when providing expert testimony can be found in the AATS "Statement on the Physician Acting As An Expert Witness."
8. Conflicts of Interest
8.1 Members should strive to identify and resolve potential and actual conflicts of interests in their professional practices and service to AATS. If a conflict cannot be adequately resolved, then the member should withdraw from the relationship.
8.2 Members should be aware of institutional conflicts of interest in their relations with AATS and in all other professional relationships.
8.3 Members should inform a patient of any conflicts of interest arising from their financial relationships or investments in companies that manufacture or supply medications, devices, or therapies to be used for the patient. Any such conflict of interest must be resolved in the best interest of the patient.
Adherence to the AATS Code of Ethics is a condition of AATS membership. Members may be subject to admonition, censure, probation for a stated period of time, suspension for a stated period of time, or expulsion for violating the Code of Ethics, in proceedings governed by the AATS Bylaws and the Procedural Guidelines for Ethics Complaints Against AATS Members, as adopted by the Council. This Code of Ethics may be revised or replaced periodically by action of the AATS membership, and it is the obligation of members to be informed of and adhere to these changes.
Adopted by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery: May, 2008