Concerned by state and federal laws that force physicians to give or withhold specific information when counseling patients, as well as laws that mandate specific treatments, tests, and procedures, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a Statement of Policy opposing such interference.
The policy statement, issued in May 2013, opposes government interference with the patient-physician relationship without a substantial public health justification. The statement reads, in part:
Efforts to legislate elements of patient care and counseling can drive a wedge between a patient and her health-care provider, be that a physician, certified nurse-midwife, certified midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Laws should not interfere with the ability of physicians to determine appropriate treatment options and have open, honest and confidential communications with their patients. Nor should laws interfere with the patient’s right to be counseled by a physician according to the best currently available medical evidence and the physician’s professional medical judgment. The College and ACOG strongly oppose any governmental interference that threatens communication between patients and their physicians or causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment about what information or treatment is in the best interest of the patient.1
ACOG highlighted several examples of ill-advised laws that either interfere with physicians counseling their patients or that force patients to have unnecessary tests and procedures:
- laws that prohibit physicians from speaking to their patients about firearms and gun safety
- statutes that dictate a script about what must be communicated to women about breast density and cancer risk
- laws that require women to undergo unnecessary ultrasound imaging before an abortion.
“Given the relentless legislative assault on the patient-physician relationship that we’ve seen in the past few years—and unfortunately continue to see—we were compelled to issue a formal Statement of Policy,” said ACOG President Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD. “A disproportionate number of these types of laws are aimed at women’s reproductive rights and the physicians that provide women’s health-care services.”
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