The sixth edition of The American College of Physicians (ACP) Ethics Manual has been published as an addition to the current issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP’s leading journal. The aim of the manual is to help the way ethical decisions in clinical teaching, practice, and medical research are made. Furthermore, the manual outlines and explains fundamental ethics principles, in addition to the role physicians play in society and with colleagues. The manual is available online at

New themes in the revised manual address use of human biologic materials in investigations, providing culturally sensitive care, social media and online professionalism, patient-physician relationship during health catastrophes, the challenges of looking after so-called VIPs (very important persons), such as individuals who are famous or prestige, and industry sponsored research.

In addition, topics in previous editions are revisited, such as research ethics, physician-assisted suicide, end-of-life care, physician-industry relations, complementary and alternative medicine, and genetic testing.

Virginia L. Hood, MBBS, MPH, FACP, president of ACP, and the former chair of ACP’s Ethics, Professionalism, and Human Rights Committee, explains:

“ACP’s Ethics Manual covers many of the ethical tensions in medicine and attempts to shed light on how existing principles extend to emerging concerns. We believe that ACP’s Ethics Manual provides the best approach to the challenges addressed in it.”

Although the manual was created fundamentally for doctors of internal medicine, the manual has been used extensively by other physicians and is often noted in ethical and medical literature. The ACP first published the Ethics Manual in 1984. The novel edition is a revised version of the fifth edition in 2005. The ACPs Ethics, Professionalism, and Human Rights Committee developed the manual, which was approved in July 2011 by ACP’s Board of Regents.

Lois Snyder, JD, director of ACP’s Center for Ethics and Professionalism and lead author of the manual, said:

“Medicine continues to pose challenging ethical dilemmas for patients and their physicians. We hope ACP’s Ethics Manual will provide guidance to clinicians, educators, researchers, and policymakers that will enhance trust in individuals, and the profession, by patients and the public.”

In an associated report, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, believes the ACP’s Ethics Manual has several clear and specific recommendations.

Dr. Emanuel explains that the ACP’s Ethics Manual:

“is an important guide for physicians. It goes well beyond the usual banalities to take brave stands on current issues. Yet this document is a worthy heir to the tradition of medical oaths and codes that stretches back millennia.”

As an extra perk for ACP members and subscribers to Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP’s leading journal, a continuing medical education (CME) quiz and a maintenance of certification (MOC) module are available at

Written by Grace Rattue