Doctors responsible for reality TV show participants' health

Physicians should turn down TV gigs that may mislead the public, a newly adopted CEJA opinion says.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted Nov. 28, 2005

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Dallas -- Physicians' ethical obligations to their patients don't stop when reality TV cameras start rolling, according to an updated Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs opinion the AMA House of Delegates adopted at its Interim Meeting this month.

Reality TV shows such as "The Swan," "Extreme Makeover" and "I Want a Famous Face" raised serious ethical questions about physicians' participation in broadcasts that may mislead the public or show the medical profession in an unfavorable light.

"Physicians who participate in these programs should have a real patient-physician relationship," said Rebecca J. Patchin, MD, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees and a Riverside, Calif., pain medicine specialist.

"They should have the same relationship whether reality TV is involved or not, and they should anticipate that the relationship would be portrayed appropriately when edited for TV," she said.

Physicians "should refuse to participate in programs that foster misperceptions or are otherwise misleading," according to the opinion.

CEJA also said medical specialty societies should work with TV producers to make sure programs are accurate and realistic and that specialty societies may take disciplinary action against physicians who participate in misleading shows.

The new CEJA guidelines update an existing opinion on filming patients for public broadcast that already deals with patient consent, privacy, confidentiality, physician conflicts of interest, compensation disclosure and institutional review.

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