The medical profession holds a unique position in society; being a doctor is a privilege. As such, there are strict ethical guidelines with which we must comply.
All medical practitioners should be familiar with the Medical Board’s ‘Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia’ (‘the Code’), which aims to articulate standards in medical practice ‘that have long been at the core of medical practice’ (section 1.1 of the Code). The Code recognises the ‘power imbalance in the doctor-patient relationship’ (section 3.2 of the Code) and emphasises that the care of patients must always be a doctor’s primary concern (section 1.4 of the Code). This is reiterated in section 8.11 of the Code:
‘Patients rely on the independence and trustworthiness of doctors for any advice or treatment offered. A conflict of interest in medical practice arises when a doctor, entrusted with acting in the interests of a patient, also has financial, professional or personal interests, or relationship with third parties, which may affect their care of the patient. Multiple interests are common. They require identification, careful consideration, appropriate disclosure and accountability. When these interests compromise, or might reasonably be perceived by an independent observer to compromise, the doctor’s primary duty to the patient, doctors must recognise and resolve this conflict in the best interests of the patient.’
Section 8.12 of the Code, amongst other things, requires doctors to declare ‘any relevant and material financial or commercial interest that you or your family might have in an aspect of the patient’s care,’ and any ‘professional and financial interest in any product you might endorse or sell from your practise’. It also says that doctors should not make ‘an unjustifiable profit from the sale or endorsement.’
Finally, doctors should familiarise themselves with AHPRA’s Guidelines for advertising regulated health services, which applies to all forms of advertising, whether via social media or otherwise.
If in doubt, always speak with your medical indemnity insurer.
This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information.