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Those who read only the introductory section of “Physician Obligation in Disaster Preparedness and Response,” the statement from the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, apparently an elaboration on CEJA Opinion 3-I-04, E-9.067, will find an expression of laudable professional responsibility in the face of a disaster. There the AMA authors explicitly acknowledge “that unique responsibilities beyond planning rest on the shoulders of the medical profession” (emphasis added). They also declare that, “physicians are needed to care for victims. In some instances, this will require individual physicians to place their health or their lives at risk” (emphasis added). As the AMA authors note, these responsibilities have been accepted at least since the writing of Thomas Percival in 1803 and endorsed by the AMA in posting their 1847 code. The commitments are also asserted in the preamble of the AMA's most current Principles of Medical Ethics, which states that “a physician must recognize responsibility to patients, first and foremost,” and again in Principle VIII, which states that “[a] physician shall, when caring for a patient, regard responsibility to the patient as paramount” (emphasis added).
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