AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. February 2010, Volume 12, Number 2: 96.

The Code Says

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AMA Code of Medical Ethics ’ Opinions on Patenting Procedures and Devices

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics permits physicians to patent medical devices and instruments but advises that new techniques be disseminated to colleagues as soon as they prove safe and effective.

Opinion 9.08 - New Medical Procedures

In the ethical tradition expressed by Hippocrates and continuously affirmed thereafter, the role of the physician has been that of a healer who serves patients, a teacher who imparts knowledge of skills and techniques to colleagues, and a student who constantly seeks to keep abreast of new medical knowledge.

Physicians have an obligation to share their knowledge and skills and to report the results of clinical and laboratory research. Both positive and negative studies should be included even though they may not support the author’s hypothesis. This tradition enhances patient care, leads to the early evaluation of new technologies, and permits the rapid dissemination of improved techniques.

The intentional withholding of new medical knowledge, skills, and techniques from colleagues for reasons of personal gain is detrimental to the medical profession and to society and is to be condemned.

Prompt presentation before scientific organizations and timely publication of clinical and laboratory research in scientific journals are essential elements in the foundation of good medical care. [Updated June 1994.]

Opinion 9.09 - Patent for Surgical or Diagnostic Instrument

A physician may patent a surgical or diagnostic instrument he or she has discovered or developed. The laws governing patents are based on the sound doctrine that one is entitled to protect one’s discovery. [Report issued prior to April 1977.]