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Restraints on doctors “not in best interests of patients”

20 October 2008

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The World Medical Association (WMA) has declared that the best interests of patients are not being met because of unreasonable restraints being placed on doctors’ clinical independence.

The statement, contained in the WMA’s declaration on professional autonomy and clinical independence, says that unreasonable restraints imposed by governments and administrators can damage the trust, which is an essential component of the doctor-patient relationship.

According to the new statement, the central element of professional autonomy and clinical independence is the assurance that individual doctors – whether GPs or hospital-based – have the freedom to exercise their professional judgment in the care and treatment of their patients without undue influence by outside parties.

The WMA added that restraints on the ability of doctors to refuse demands by patients or their families for inappropriate medical services are not in the best interests of either patients or society.

Dr Edward Hill, chair of the WMA, said: “In this new declaration, the WMA is reaffirming the importance of professional autonomy and clinical independence.

“We see this not only as an essential component of high-quality medical care and therefore a benefit to the patient that must be preserved, but also as an essential principle of medical professionalism.”

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