J. Abbott Byrd III, MD
Ethics Committee Chair
As defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, ethics are the rules or standards governing the conduct of the members of a profession. Recognizing the importance of this topic, the Ethics and Professionalism Committee was formed in 2008 as an advisory body to the SRS Board of Directors (BOD). The primary goal of the committee is to focus on the ethical and professional issues that face both the society as a whole and its individual members and to offer some guidelines as how to address these issues.
To achieve this goal, the committee has developed a comprehensive SRS Ethics Document which was approved by the BOD in July 2011 and distributed at the 46th Annual Meeting. Hopefully, the membership has had time to read and reflect on this document which has four sections:
1) The Introduction sets the tone for the document by stating that the first priority for Fellows of the SRS is to provide ethical and compassionate care for patients.
2) The Standards of Professionalism section deals with ethical issues facing the practitioner as they care for patients on a daily basis. This was drawn heavily with permission from the Guide To Professionalism and Ethics in the Practice of Orthopaedic Surgery published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in January 2010. This fifteen-page section begins with the obligations of the spinal surgeon to the patient. Industry Conflict of Interest is addressed next and warrants special attention,given the pervasiveness of industry involvement in today's practice of spinal surgery. Adherence to these guidelines will protect both the patient and surgeon. Obligations in regard to Advertising as well as Expert Opinion and Testimony are reviewed next. Given today's litigious society, it is common for the spinal surgeon to act as an expert reviewer in medical malpractice cases. Awareness of the obligations that one incurs as an expert reviewer is mandatory. This section finishes with Research and Academic Responsibilities which is especially germane to the SRS mmbership given the emphasis which the Society places on research.
3) The Professional Medical Association (PMA) section addresses various ethical issues for SRS as an entire Society. Such issues include general budget support, society meetings, research support, fellowship and training support, committees that form Practice Guidelines and Measurement Standards, publications, product endorsements, affiliated foundations and lastly Conflict of Interest among the Presidential Line and BOD as well as any participant at an SRS activity.
4) The Ethics and Discipline Management Process section clearly outlines the adjudication process should a complaint be made against an SRS Member. While activity is the goal of most SRS committees, it is the hope of the EPC that its services in the adjudication process will not be necessary.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "the time is always right to do right." Hopefully, this Ethics Document will help SRS and its membership "do right," thereby maintaining the highest standard of ethical patient care and continuing the SRS' reputation as the best spine society in the world.
Chair: J. Abbott Byrd, MD Committee Members: Denis S. Drummond, MD; Richard Hostin, MD; Michael A. Edgar, MD; Michael J. Bolesta, MD; James W. Roach, MD; Behrooz A. Akbarnia, MD; Brian G. Smith, MD.