Legislative Interference with Patient Care, Medical Decisions, and the Patient-Physician Relationship
Statement of Policy
Government serves a valuable role in the protection of public health and safety and the provision of essential health services. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports this proper role of government. Laws and regulations that veer from these functions and unduly interfere with patient-physician relationships are not appropriate. Absent a substantial public health justification, government should not interfere with individual patient-physician encounters.
The patient-physician relationship is essential to the provision of safe and quality medical care and should be protected from unnecessary governmental intrusion. Efforts to legislate elements of patient care and counseling can drive a wedge between a patient and their health care professional. Laws should not interfere with the ability of physicians and patients to determine appropriate treatment options and have open, honest, and confidential communications. Nor should laws interfere with the patient’s right to be counseled and treated by a physician according to the best currently available medical evidence and the physician’s professional medical judgment. ACOG strongly opposes any governmental interference that threatens communication between patients and their physicians or causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment when caring for patients.
Laws that ban or criminalize evidence-based care, that rely on medically unsupported theories and misinformation, that require physicians to give, or withhold, specific information when counseling patients, or that mandate which tests, procedures, treatment alternatives or medicines physicians can perform, prescribe, or administer are ill-advised. Examples of such problematic interference include prohibiting physicians from speaking to their patients about firearms and gun safety, confusing patients and compromising informed consent, mandating outdated treatment protocols for early pregnancy termination and miscarriage management, banning or restricting abortion, and prohibiting gender-affirming counseling and care.
This type of legislative interference affects all physicians, not just obstetrician-gynecologists.1 Singling out medical procedures, defying current well-established medical practice and scientific facts, and dictating physician practice sets a dangerous precedent. Medical knowledge is not static. Even if the law or regulation is generally consistent with the clinical standard of care at the time of enactment, medical treatment protocols written into law are problematic. As knowledge advances, these protocols, tests, and procedures can become outdated. Laws and regulations should not override scientific progress.
ACOG opposes legislation that weakens the patient-physician relationship. We urge physicians to advocate against undue legislative interference in patient care. A patient’s right to be counseled and treated by their physician according to the best available medical evidence and the physician’s professional medical judgment must be protected.
1 Weinberger SE, Lawrence HC 3rd, Henley DE, Alden ER, Hoyt DB. Legislative interference with the patient-physician relationship. N Engl J Med 2012;367:1557-9.
Approved May 2013
Reaffirmed July 2016
Amended and Reaffirmed July 2019
Amended and Reaffirmed August 2021