ACOG Committee Opinion
Number 370 , July 2007
(Reaffirmed 2012)


Committee on Ethics
PDF Format

Institutional Responsibility to Provide Legal Representation*

ABSTRACT: Hospitals, academic institutions, professional corporations, and other health care organizations should have policies and procedures by which alleged violations of professional behavior can be reported and investigated. These institutions should adopt policies on legal representation and indemnification to protect those whose responsibilities in managing such investigations may expose them to potentially costly legal actions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Ethics supports the position of the American Association of University Professors regarding institutional responsibility for legal demands on faculty.


*Update of "Institutional Responsibility to Provide Legal Representation" in Ethics in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Second Edition, 2004.

The "Code of Professional Ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists" states, "The obstetrician– gynecologist should strive to address through the appropriate procedures the status of those physicians who demonstrate questionable competence, impairment, or unethical or illegal behavior. In addition, the obstetrician–gynecologist should cooperate with appropriate authorities to prevent the continuation of such behavior" (1). The Code also identifies those "appropriate procedures" and "appropriate authorities": "The obstetrician–gynecologist should respect all laws, uphold the dignity and honor of the profession, and accept the profession's self-imposed discipline. The professional competence and conduct of obstetrician– gynecologists are best examined by professional associations, hospital peer-review committees, and state medical and licensing boards. These groups deserve the full cooperation of the obstetrician–gynecologist" (1).

Academic institutions, professional corporations, hospitals, and other health care organizations should have policies and procedures by which alleged violations of professional behavior can be reported and investigated. Also, it is necessary for these institutions to adopt policies on legal representation and indemnification for their employees or others acting in an official capacity who, in discharging their obligations relative to unethical or illegal behavior of individuals, are exposed to potentially costly legal actions.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees with the position of the American Association of University Professors in its 1998 statement, "Institutional Responsibility for Legal Demands on Faculty," that institutions should "ensure effective legal and other necessary representation and full indemnification in the first instance for any faculty member named or included in lawsuits or other extra-institutional legal proceedings arising from an act or omission in the discharge of institutional or related professional duties or in the defense of academic freedom at the institution" (2).

Reference

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Code of professional ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2004. Available at: http://www.acog.org/from_home/acogcode.pdf. Retrieved January 11, 2007.
  2. Institutional responsibility for legal demands on faculty. American Association of University Professors. Academe 1999;85 (1):52.

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Multifetal Pregnancy Reduction. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 370. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2007; 110:215–6.