• Pertinent Principles and Rules of the Code of Ethics related to Informed Consent and Confidentiality

    Preamble
    The Code of Ethics of the American Academy of Ophthalmology applies to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and to its Fellows and Members in any class of membership, and is enforceable by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

    A. Principles Of Ethics
    The Principles of Ethics form the first part of this Code of Ethics. They are aspirational and inspirational model standards of exemplary professional conduct for all Fellows or Members of the Academy in any class of membership. They serve as goals for which Academy Fellows and Members should constantly strive. The Principles of Ethics are not enforceable.

    1. Ethics in Ophthalmology. Ethics address conduct and relate to what behavior is appropriate or inappropriate, as reasonably determined by the entity setting the ethical standards. An issue of ethics in ophthalmology is resolved by determining what best serves the interest(s) of patients.

    2. An Ophthalmologist's Responsibility. It is the responsibility of an ophthalmologist to act in the best interest of the patient.

    3. Providing Ophthalmological Services. Ophthalmological services must be provided with compassion, respect for human dignity, honesty and integrity.

    5. Communication with the Patient. Open communication with the patient is essential. Patient confidences must be safeguarded within the constraints of the law.


    B. Rules of Ethics
    The Rules of Ethics form the second part of this Code of Ethics. They are mandatory and descriptive standards of minimally-acceptable professional conduct for all Fellows or Members of the Academy in any class of membership. The Rules of Ethics are enforceable.

    1. Competence. An ophthalmologist is a physician who is educated and trained to provide medical and surgical care of the eyes and related structures. An ophthalmologist should perform only those procedures in which the ophthalmologist is competent by virtue of specific training or experience or is assisted by one who is. An ophthalmologist must not misrepresent credentials, training, experience, ability or results.

    2. Informed Consent. Informed consent is the process of shared decision-making between the ophthalmologist and the patient and must precede the performance of medical or surgical procedure. During the informed consent process, pertinent medical and surgical facts, and recommendations consistent with standard of care in medical/surgical practice must be presented in understandable terms to the patient or patient surrogate. Such information should include the indications, benefits, objectives, risks and possible complications of the procedure, alternatives to the procedure, and the potential consequences of no treatment. The operating ophthalmologist must personally confirm comprehension of this information with the patient or patient surrogate.

    3. Research and Innovation. Research is conducted to provide information on which to base diagnostic, prognostic or therapeutic decisions and/or to improve understanding of pathogenesis in circumstances in which insufficient information exists. Research and innovation must be approved by appropriate review mechanisms (Institutional Review Board; IRB) and must comply with all requirements of the approved study protocol to protect patients from being subjected to or potentially affected by inappropriate or fraudulent research. In emerging areas of ophthalmic treatment where recognized guidelines do not exist, the ophthalmologist should exercise especially careful judgment and take appropriate precautions to safeguard patient welfare. Appropriate informed consent for research and innovative procedures must recognize their special nature and ramifications. The ophthalmologist must demonstrate an understanding of the purpose and goals of the research and recognize and disclose financial and non-financial conflicts of interest. Commensurate with the level of his/her involvement, the investigator must accept personal accountability for patient safety and compliance with all legal and IRB-imposed requirements.

    4. Other Opinions. Ophthalmologists should be cognizant of the limitations of his/her knowledge and skills and be willing to seek consultations in clinical situations where appropriate. The patient's request for additional opinion(s) should be respected. 

    17. Confidentiality. An ophthalmologist shall respect the confidential physician-patient relationship and safeguard confidential information consistent with the law.