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March 11, 1983

IX. The AMA Gets a New Code of Ethics

Author Affiliations

From the Morris Fishbein Center, University of Chicago.

JAMA. 1983;249(10):1338-1342. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330340072038

In the celebrations that marked the centennial year 1876, medicine shared in the general self-congratulation; yet despite the rhetoric, a note of caution made itself heard. The president of the American Medical Association commented, in 1876, on the code of ethics. This he called "the best ever given for the government of medical men," and he observed that most of the members might think it "as perfect as the Decalogue, and as incapable of improvement." Nevertheless, it did not seem to work very well. Even eminent physicians, sticklers for the "inviolability of the Code," tried to find the "easiest way of getting round its provisions without a flagrant violation of them." Such physicians "feel that they are hampered by the rules that are unjust and oppressive." The code of ethics was violated every day, "not only by the rank and file, but by men high in the profession." He pointed