University of Minnesota

World Medical Association, Statement on Professional Responsibility for Standards of Medical Care (1996).


Adopted by the 48th General Assembly
Somerset West, Republic of South African, October 1996


Recognising that:
the physician has an obligation to provide his or her patients with competent medical service and to strive to expose those physicians deficient in character or competence (International Code of Medical Ethics); and,

the patient has the right to be cared for by a physician whom he/she knows to be free to make clinical and ethical judgements without inappropriate outside interference (Declaration of Lisbon 1981 as amended in 1995); and, ethics committees, credentials committees and other forms of peer review have been long established, recognised and accepted by organised medicine to scrutinise physicians' professional conduct and, where appropriate, impose reasonable restrictions on the absolute professional freedom of physicians; and,

Reaffirming that:
professional autonomy and the duty to engage in vigilant self-regulation are essential components of high quality care and therefore a patient benefit that must be preserved; and, as a corollary, that the medical profession has a continuing responsibility to support,
participate in, and accept appropriate peer review activity that is conducted in good faith;

The World Medical Association maintains that a doctor's professional service should be considered distinct from commercial goods and services, not least because a doctor is bound by specific ethical duties, which include the dedication to provide competent medical practice (International Code of Medical Ethics 1949);

The World Medical Association believes that, whatever judicial or regulatory process a country has established, any judgement on a doctor's professional conduct or performance must incorporate evaluation by the doctor's professional peers who, by their training and experience understand the complexity of the medical issues involved;

The World Medical Association condemns any procedures for considering complaints from patients or procedures for compensating patients, which fail to be based upon good faith evaluation of the doctor's actions or omissions by the physician's peers. Such procedures will undermine the overall quality of medical care provided to all patients.

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