Physician’s assistants (PAs) are specially trained to extend the health care capabilities of doctors. They work under the direct supervision of a physician. PAs are trained to order and interpret tests, examine patients, treat minor injuries, counsel patients and prescribe medication. PAs do not work alone but as part of a team.
The Physician Assistant Code of Ethics begins with basic expectations. The PA is expected to practice in a manner that holds life in the highest regard, to respect the individuality and dignity of patients and to behave in a manner that is in line with patient rights. According to the New York State PA Code of Ethics, PAs have a duty to provide quality of care regardless of the patient’s personal characteristics.
Responsibilities to Patients
According to the Code of Ethics, the PA must identify himself as a PA before treating the patient. He must guard patient information and reveal confidential information only if required by law. The PA must provide the patient or the patient’s representative with the information needed to make informed decisions. He is to continue to provide quality care even if the patient is “deemed incurable.” The PA's Code of Ethics states that, like the physician, the PA is bound by the dictum “Do no harm.” The PA must obey jurisdictional laws pertaining to the care of minors and a minor’s legal right to refuse treatment.
Conflict of Interest
The PA is restricted from treating close friends, family members and co-workers. Personal feeling might impair a PA's judgment or might prevent the patient from seeking care from a licensed physician. If the PA must provide treatment, care should be transferred to a medical provider as soon as practical.
The PA is responsible for providing the physician with the information needed to make informed decisions. She must not enter into an agreement with the patient outside the physician’s knowledge. The PA must practice within the scope of her skills, education and training and within the practice limitations of the physician. If the PA’s supervising physician is unavailable, the PA must perform her duties under the supervision of another designated physician.
Responsibilities to the Profession
According to the Code of Ethics, the PA should behave in a professional manner at all times. He must obey the law. He must uphold the integrity of the medical profession as a whole. The PA is obligated to report suspected or real cases of violations committed by other PAs. He is forbidden to associate with others who violate the Code or the general ethics of medical practice. The PA is professionally obligated to participate in peer reviews, clinical education, continuing academic education and research activities.
The PA’s responsibilities to the public include participation in public activities that further the health and well-being of individuals and the community. She must protect the public by reporting violations of the PA bylaws. The Code of Ethics states that PAs are duty bound to honor the ideals of the medical professional on a level that meets the needs of society.