In late December 2014, the Collège des médecins du Québec (the "College") revised its Code of Ethics for physicians (the "Code"). The new rules are meant to better protect the public by emphasizing transparency, integrity and professionalism. In particular, they aim to prevent physicians from being influenced by third parties or financial motives in their interactions with patients.
In an explanatory guide (available in French only), the College notes that in revising the Code, it considered recurring issues raised by the Investigations Branch and in disciplinary decisions. It also considered changes to medical practice and the introduction of innovative technologies, for example, among the new rules is a provision which reflects particular ethical obligations concerning the preservation of confidentiality when doctors use social networks and the Internet (s. 20).
In addition, the new Code states that physicians cannot ask patients for a disproportionate amount as payment for the medical supplies administered (s. 76) and that physicians must provide patients with a detailed invoice of any costs claimed (s. 104).
Moreover, the Code now contains a provision stating that physicians should ensure that the priority of access to medical care is given to patients strictly according to medical need and not based on any financial criteria (s. 63.1).
Similarly, the Code now prohibits physicians from receiving any financial advantage other than their fees when prescribing devices, examinations or medications. Although there is an exception for physicians who participated in the development of a product since the College does not want to discourage physicians from research and development. Nevertheless, physicians must inform their patients of their commercial interests. This requirement covers any form of benefits, financial or otherwise, obtained directly or indirectly (s. 79).
The majority of the changes came into force on January 7, 2015. However, certain items relating to physician's independence and impartiality will only come into force on July 7, 2015.