The American Medical Association's House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved an internal report asserting physicians' right to charge patients a premium for extra services such as guaranteed same-day appointments, lavish waiting rooms and longer visits. The endorsement of so-called "boutique medicine" came despite concerns among delegates that a proliferation of the controversial practice might limit access to care. The report by the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, however, backed boutique medicine only so long as patients are not abandoned and added that patients should receive the same diagnostic and therapeutic services regardless of whether they pay a premium for added amenities. The report was approved today at the AMA's annual meeting, being held in Chicago.
In other actions, delegates approved a recommendation by the AMA ethics council that cloning for biomedical research is consistent with medical ethics and a resolution calling for physicians to receive a patient's full and informed consent before allowing pharmaceutical sales representatives to be present for any procedure. The delegates also installed John Nelson, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Salt Lake City, as the organization's president-elect. Nelson previously was secretary-treasurer of the AMA board. -- by Michael Romano