• Question: A patient from out of town thanked one of my technicians for going above and beyond in helping him during his recent emergency by giving her a large cash tip. My technician at first said no, but the patient pressed the issue and would not take no for an answer. Was it ethical to accept the gift? What have others done in this situation?

    Answer: The medical literature is sparse on the question of gifts from patients to staff. The best literature we found on this subject indicates that acceptance should be on a case-by-case basis and not related to:

    • patient expectations of future preferential treatment
    • gifts of a personal nature
    • extravagant gifts
    • timing related to future care

    None of these issues seem relevant to the circumstances you described. Based on your description, the patient appeared to be truly grateful and it gave him pleasure to reward your technician. It doesn’t appear that there is any reason to take any action about this gift except to thank the technician for being a good ambassador for your practice.

    To read the Code of Ethics, visit https://www.aao.org/ethics-detail/code-of-ethics.

    To submit a question, reach out to the Ethics Committee at ethics@aao.org.