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November 13, 1991

Should Physicians Treat Patients Who Seek Second Opinions?

Author Affiliations

The Johns Hopkins Medical School Baltimore, Md

The Johns Hopkins Medical School Baltimore, Md

JAMA. 1991;266(18):2558. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470180058017

To the Editor.  —The recent article from the Office of the General Counsel1 explaining the American Medical Association's position regarding the legal implications for refusing to treat patients who are referred for a second opinion is alarming. Although it rightly points to each physician's right to refuse to treat a patient who is referred for a second opinion, and although it properly identifies a possible conflict of interest in treating such a patient, the main thrust of the article is its emphasis on the prohibition against any group of physicians agreeing to not treat patients sent to them for second opinions, because such a joint decision on their parts would be "anticompetitive" and a violation of the Sherman Act. Not only could the physicians who entered into such an agreement be subject to civil liability of treble damages, but they could also be subject to criminal penalties, including fine