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​Extensive consultation leads to a new CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism

​After a two-year consultation process, the CMA Board of Directors approved a new Code of Ethics and Professionalism in December 2018.

The updated Code is the result of extensive research and consultation with physicians and stakeholders. In total, more than 6,000 comments helped inform the revision, gathered through interviews, surveys, online discussions and in-person events, including the CMA’s annual General Council meetings in August 2017 and 2018.

The Code is one of the oldest documents produced by the CMA and is foundational to the profession. Since its creation in 1868, it’s provided guidance to Canada’s physicians on their obligations to patients and society. It has been periodically revised throughout its history to reflect changes in the medical profession, society and technology.

Some highlights of the new Code:

  1. Inclusion of professionalism in the title
    The name of the Code has been updated to highlight the growing emphasis on medical professionalism and to make a distinction between the core values of the profession and its evolving responsibilities.
  2. Reintroducing and emphasizing virtues
    Virtues centre on the character of a physician; reintroducing them into the Code reaffirms the that they’ve long defined what it means to be an ethical physician. They also complement the fundamental principles outlined in the Code.
  3. Articulating fundamental commitments
    The new Code makes a distinction between professional responsibilities – which physicians are expected to enact, and which can evolve over time − and fundamental commitments, which define the profession, and which physicians should aspire to uphold. 
  4. Emphasizing the patient-physician relationship
    The new Code reinforces the importance of the patient-physician relationship. It also addresses the changing nature of both this relationship and medical decision-making.
  5. Emphasizing new commitments to oneself
    The new Code introduces commitments to physician health and wellness, in response to growing evidence linking poor physician health and the impact on patient care.

 To read the full CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism, please click here.

​THE JOURNEY TO A NEW CMA CODE OF ETHICS AND PROFESSIONALISM

2016
  • January: Launch of the CMA’s strategic initiative on medical professionalism, with the development of a new Code of Ethics as one of its pillars.
  • October: More than 1,000 Canadians respond to CMA surveys on medical professionalism.
  • November: The CMA holds a national stakeholder meeting on medical professionalism in Ottawa.
  • December: Revision to the Code of Ethics begins, with the CMA Board of Directors approving the project.

2017

  • January-March: Research begins with an analysis of all previous versions of the CMA Code of Ethics, other national and international medical codes of ethics, and the distinction and relationship between ethics and professionalism.
  • March: The CMA Code of Ethics Revision Task Force is formed to lead the project.
  • March-April: 800 physicians respond to CMA e-panel surveys on ethics and professionalism, providing input on key themes and values relevant to a new Code.
  • March-June: At a series of CMA member forums, participants explore the pillars of medical professionalism and identify challenges facing the profession, including loss of public trust and lack of shared purpose, identity and common values.
  • August: Three sessions are held at the CMA General Council meeting on the Code of Ethics and intra-professionalism.
  • September-December: Research continues with key informant interviews, data syntheses and a joint meeting of the CMA Committee on Ethics and the Code of Ethics Revision Task Force.
  • December: Another key pillar in the CMA’s medical professionalism initiative − the Charter of Shared Values − is released, championing respect, integrity, reciprocity and civility in the medical profession.
  • Throughout the year: Facilitated discussions are held with members on the CMA Community and The Rounds; panels and workshops are held at five national leadership and physician health conferences.

2018

  • January-March: A new CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism is drafted based on information and feedback gathered to-date.
  • March-November: Physicians, patients, stakeholders and the public provide feedback on the draft through surveys, webinars, face-to-face meetings, and hundreds of emails and conversations.
  • August: Session is held at the CMA General Council on “A new Code of Ethics for the medical profession at 150: CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism”.
  • December: Reflecting the latest feedback, the final CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism is presented to the CMA Board of Directors and approved.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.