All APA members are bound by the ethical code of the medical profession, specifically defined in American Psychiatric Association's Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry ("Principles").
APA's Ethics Committee is responsible for drafting (for review and approval by the Board of Trustees and Assembly) annotations to update the Principles, responding to members' request for guidance on ethical issues they are facing in their practice, providing educational information on ethical issues to members, and hearing appeals of District Branch decision on ethics complaints.
Ethics and COVID-19
APA's Ethics Committee is taking questions and providing answers to ethical issues members are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the committee's answer to some questions below:
If you have an ethical dilemma and need advice from APA's Ethics Committee, submit your questions to [email protected]. The committee will respond to your directly.
APA Ethics Resources and Standards
APA adheres to the American Medical Association's Principles of Medical Ethics.
APA interprets these general guidelines in its annotations and published opinions. The annotations are not absolutes; instead, they are intended to put ethical guidance in the context of psychiatry. The annotations are revised from time to time to make them applicable to current practices and problems.
When a person with personal knowledge believes an APA member may have violated these ethical principles, they may file a complaint with the APA District Branch to which the member belongs. View contact information for District Branches. Complaints are handled in accordance with APA's procedural code by the District Branch's ethics committee. Appeals from district branch decisions are made to the APA Ethics Committee.
The Commentary is based on the existing Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry and is meant to provide practical guidance for managing ethical dilemmas that come up in day-to-day practice. The commentary is cross-referenced to the Annotations so that there is an explicit link between each subject and the existing ethics code.
The Opinions of the Ethics Committee on The Principles of Medical Ethics includes ethics questions raised by APA members and opinions prepared by APA's Ethics Committee. The opinions reflect the perspectives of the particular time in which each was written and do not represent APA policy. The opinions are offered to assist APA's members and district branches in understanding the ethical principles.
APA members who have a question on which they would like an opinion from APA's Ethics Committee on an ethical problem they are trying to solve may contact [email protected]. Please include your member identification number in your email.
APA's Ethics Committee developed the Ethics Primer primarily for residents and those teaching ethics. The Primer is a practical compilation of ethical thinking regarding the most frequently encountered problems facing all psychiatrists, including residents. This clinical guide and reference is sure to stimulate the discussion so integral to the dynamic tradition of ethics.
Ethics Committee Memos
- Ethics Committee Memo to Joint Reference Committee Regarding Commentary on Ethics in Practice (.pdf)
- COVID-19 Related Opinions of the APA Ethics Committee (.pdf)
- APA Ethics Opinion No. D.17 on Providing Treatment to Unaccompanied Minors at the Border (.pdf)
- Recent Ethics Opinions, 2020 – 2022 (.pdf)
- 2019 Resource Document on Responding to Negative Online Reviews (.pdf)
- 2020 Resource Document on the Interface of Religion, Spirituality, and Psychiatric Practice (.pdf)