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Accepting gifts from patients kosher?

May 24, 2012

Question:

Jennifer,

A patient offered me 4 Yankee tickets as a gift. Can I accept?

Thanks,
Dr. R

Answer:

Totally depends.  The AMA has an opinion on exactly this type of question and the answer given shows it really depends on the circumstance of the gift giving.  The opinion provides as follows:

Opinion 10.017 - Gift from Patients

Gifts that patients offer to physicians are often an expression of appreciation and gratitude or a reflection of cultural tradition, and can enhance the patient-physician relationship.

Some gifts signal psychological needs that require the physician’s attention. Some patients may attempt to influence care or to secure preferential treatment through the offering of gifts or cash. Acceptance of such gifts is likely to damage the integrity of the patient-physician relationship. Physicians should make clear that gifts given to secure preferential treatment compromise their obligation to provide services in a fair manner.

There are no definitive rules to determine when a physician should or should not accept a gift. No fixed value determines the appropriateness or inappropriateness of a gift from a patient; however, the gift’s value relative to the patient’s or the physician’s means should not be disproportionately or inappropriately large. One criterion is whether the physician would be comfortable if acceptance of the gift were known to colleagues or the public.

Physicians should be cautious if patients discuss gifts in the context of a will. Such discussions must not influence the patient’s medical care.

If, after a patient’s death, a physician should learn that he or she has been bequeathed a gift, the physician should consider declining the gift if the physician believes that its acceptance would present a significant hardship (financial or emotional) to the family.

The interaction of these various factors is complex and requires the physician to consider them sensitively. (I, II)

Issued December 2003 based on the report
"Gifts from Patients,"PDF FIle adopted June 2003.

Bottom line, really a judgment call.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C.

All Rights Reserved. This email is provided for news and information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an invitation to an attorney-client relationship. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC does not guarantee such accuracy and cannot be held liable for any errors in, any reliance upon this, or losses caused by the information. Under New York’s Code of Professional Responsibility, this material may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.


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