Obligation for transparency regarding treating physician credentials at academic health centres

J Med Ethics. 2018 Nov;44(11):782-786. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2016-103937. Epub 2018 Feb 26.


Academic health centres have historically treated patients with the most complex of diseases, served as training grounds to teach the next generations of physicians and fostered an innovative environment for research and discovery. The physicians who hold faculty positions at these institutions have long understood how these key academic goals are critical to serve their patient community effectively. Recent healthcare reforms, however, have led many academic health centres to recruit physicians without these same academic expectations and to partner with non-faculty physicians at other health systems. There has been limited transparency in regard to the expertise among the physicians and the academic faculty within these larger entities. Such lack of transparency may lead to confusion among patients regarding the qualifications of who is actually treating them. This could threaten the ethical principles of patient autonomy, benevolence and non-maleficence as patients risk making uninformed decisions that might lead to poorer outcomes. Furthermore, this lack of transparency unjustly devalues the achievements of physician faculty members as well as potentially the university they represent. In this paper, it is suggested that academic health centres have an obligation to foster total transparency regarding what if any role a physician has at a university or medical school when university or other academic monikers are used at a hospital.

Keywords: applied and professional ethics; autonomy; health care economics; informed consent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers*
  • Beneficence
  • Choice Behavior
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Disclosure
  • Faculty, Medical / standards*
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Patient Rights
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / standards*