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Behav Sci Law. 1994 Autumn;12(4):317-30.

Caring about patients and caring about money: the American Psychiatric Association code of ethics meets managed care.

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Teaching Center, Harvard Community Health Plan, Boston, MA, USA.


Although the medical profession's codes of ethics have rightly been criticized for having claimed authority to decide questions of medical ethics for society, codes continue to provide crucial guidance to the individual clinician in matters of ethics. Examination of the code of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows that while it emphasizes the psychiatrist's fiduciary responsibility to individual patients, it ignores the crucial dimension of stewardship responsibilities to society. As a result, the ethical pronouncements of the APA have thus far been of little use to clinicians with regard to the major issues posed by managed care. In contrast, the code of the National Association of Social Workers considers the ethics of social institutions as well as those of individual practitioners, and advises clinicians on how to manage the inevitable and legitimate tensions between fiduciary and stewardship commitments. Until the APA extends the scope of its ethical vision, it will not be able to help clinicians struggle constructively with the question of how it is possible to "care about patients" and "care about money."

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