All APA members are bound by the ethical code of the medical profession, specifically defined in the Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association and in the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry.
The APA’s Ethics Committee is responsible for drafting (for review and approval by the Board of Trustees and Assembly) annotations to update the Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry, responding to members’ inquiries about ethical issues, and providing educational activities for the members and the chair of district branch ethics committees. The Ethics Committee also ensures complaints are handled in accordance with APA’s Procedures for Handling Complaints of Unethical Conduct.
APA Ethics Resources and Standards
In 1973 APA published the first edition of the Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry. Revisions were published as the APA Board of Trustees and the APA Assembly approved additional annotations. In July 1980, the American Medical Association (AMA) approved a new version of the Principles of Medical Ethics, and the APA Ethics Committee incorporated many of its annotations into the 1981 edition of APA’s Principles and subsequent revisions. The current version includes changes to the Principles of Medical Ethic that the AMA approved in 2001.
These general guidelines have sometimes been difficult to interpret for psychiatry, so further annotations to the basic principles are offered in this document. While psychiatrists have the same goals as all physicians, there are special ethical problems in psychiatric practice that are unique or differ in nuance or degree from ethical problems in other branches of medical practice. The annotations are not designed as absolutes and are revised from time to time to make them applicable to current practices and problems.
The Opinions of the Ethics Committee on The Principles of Medical Ethics includes ethics questions raised by APA members and opinions prepared by APA’s Ethics Committee. The opinions reflects the perspectives of the particular time in which each was written and do not represent APA policy. The opinions are offered to assist APA’s members and district branches in understanding the ethical principles.
APA members who have a question on which they would like an opinion from APA’s Ethics Committee may submit it here. A member of APA’s administration will acknowledge receipt of the inquiry.
The APA Ethics Committee developed the Ethics Primer primarily for residents and those teaching ethics. The Primer is a practical compilation of ethical thinking regarding the most frequently encountered problems facing all psychiatrists, including residents. This clinical guide and reference is sure to stimulate the discussion so integral to the dynamic tradition of ethics.
APA’s Ethics Primer may be purchased online or by phone at (800) 368-5777, Item 2317, at a cost of $47.95* plus shipping (*APA Member price: $38.86 / APA RFM price: $35.96).