Should healthcare professionals talk about politics?

person dropping paper on box

It’s election season yet again in the Philippines, and all social media platforms are abuzz with conversations about the candidates. I know who I’m voting for! But should I answer when patients ask me who I’m voting for? In this article entitled, Should Doctors Talk Politics with their Patients, Dr. Jain says he hesitates to discuss politics with a patient because being in an authoritative position, his patient “might give inappropriate weight” to his pronouncements. He also fears damaging the therapeutic relationship. Other physicians fear alienating patients and undermining trust in the profession.

Can I talk about politics online? Dr. Steve Schlozman writes in Doctors Dilemma: Is It My Duty To Get Political Or Stay Out of the Fray,

“I will not stay entirely silent. I find this election genuinely more troubling than any I have seen before. This is my nation and I will express, openly, my opinions in the public sphere. If people choose to hear these as my personal opinions, or the opinions of a physician, or both, that’s fine. If I happen to know something from my training that makes clear the reasons for my convictions, I will use that information.”

https://www.wbur.org/news/2016/08/12/doctors-dilemma-politics-duty

By speaking up, aren’t we speaking up for our patients too? Certainly, I have seen more physicians become vocal about politics recently, in connection with the pandemic response. In 2019, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote,

“People will accuse us of being political, but if people accuse you of being political because you’re standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, then you should do it anyway, because that is at the heart of our profession.”

from Medical Journal: Train Medical Students to Be Woke Social Activist, https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/medical-journal-train-medical-students-to-be-woke-social-activists/

The 2019 Code of Ethics for the Medical Profession jointly adopted by the PMA and PRC can be found here. I did not find any section referring to politics. However the AMA Code of Ethics says –

When physicians wish to express their personal political views to a patient or a patient’s family, the physician must be sensitive to the imbalance of power in the patient-physician relationship, as well as to the patient’s vulnerability and desire for privacy. Physicians should refrain from initiating political conversations during the clinical encounter. Physicians must not allow differences with the patient or family about political matters to interfere with the delivery of professional care.

https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ethics/patients-and-politics-what-ama-code-medical-ethics-says

Let’s discuss this at the #HealthXPH tweet chat 9 pm Manila time, Saturday, 23 Oct 2021.

T1. Can healthcare professionals talk about politics online? Are there limits?

T2. Can a healthcare professional initiate a conversation about politics with patients? In what context and under what circumstances?

T3. Should a patient initiate a conversation about politics, how should the healthcare professional respond?

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