AAOS Bulletin - February, 2005

Questions on the Professional Compliance Program?

Here are the answers

Q: AAOS publishes Opinions on Ethics and Professionalism that provides guidance to orthopaedic surgeons on a number of topics. Why do we need Standards of Professionalism?

A: The Opinions on Ethics and Professionalism are voluntary and aspirational, not mandatory. Once adopted , the Standards of Professionalism (SOPs) will apply to all AAOS fellows and members and may serve as the basis for filing a formal complaint under the AAOS Professional Compliance Program.

Q: What is the difference between the AAOS Expert Witness Affirmation Statement and the Standards of Professionalism for Orthopaedic Expert Witness Testimony?

A: The AAOS Expert Witness Affirmation Statement is a voluntary acknowledgement of one’s duty when providing orthopaedic expert witness testimony. AAOS fellows and members may be questioned during legal proceedings as to whether they voluntarily signed the AAOS Expert Witness Affirmation Statement and if not, why not. AAOS makes copies of signed Expert Witness Affirmation Statements available to law firms upon written request.

The Standards of Professionalism for Orthopaedic Expert Witness Testimony are mandatory and apply to all AAOS fellows and members. Alleged violations of the Standards of Professionalism for Orthopaedic Expert Witness Testimony may serve as the basis for a formal complaint under the AAOS Professional Compliance Program.

Q: May an AAOS fellow or member who is not a party to a legal matter file a grievance against an AAOS fellow or member?

A: Yes. An example of this is when an orthopaedic surgeon provides expert witness testimony for a plaintiff against a defendant neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon may not file a grievance alleging fraudulent or misleading expert witness testimony, but another AAOS fellow or member may file such a grievance.

Q: Will AAOS accept grievances of alleged violations of the Standards of Professionalism from patients, hospital staff and other health care providers?

A: No. Only an AAOS fellow or member may file a grievance against another AAOS fellow or member.

Q: Is there any liability for an individual who files a grievance?

A: There is nothing to preclude a civil suit between AAOS fellows and members. However, should a civil matter be filed while an AAOS grievance is in progress, the AAOS grievance procedure will be suspended until the civil matter is resolved.

Q: Is the AAOS Professional Compliance Program a peer review program?

A: No. The AAOS Professional Compliance program investigates, hears and adjudicates grievances of alleged violations of the SOPs. By design, the Program is not a peer review program so that materials generated during the process may be shared with counsel upon an appropriate request.

Q: Does AAOS accept complaints concerning gifts from or orthopaedic surgeons’ relationship with industry?

A: No. Formal complaints may only be filed for alleged violations of the minimum standards contained in the three SOPs. There is not currently an SOP regarding an Orthopaedic Surgeon’s Acceptance of Gifts from Industry, although there is an Opinion on Ethics and Professionalism regarding this topic.

Q: Will AAOS fellows be able to adopt only the SOPs for Orthopaedic Expert Witness Testimony and not the SOPs for Professional Relationships and Providing Musculoskeletal Services to Patients?

A: No. The three SOPs are considered an integrated whole and will be subject to only one fellowship vote. AAOS fellows will have the opportunity to either approve or reject all three SOPs with just one vote.

Q: Will the SOPs be available to the public?

A: Yes. The Professional Compliance Program has a dedicated section of the AAOS Web site. In advance of the fellowship vote, the SOPs may be accessed through the Members Only portal. Once approved, however, the SOPs will be available to the public.

Questions or comments concerning the AAOS Professional Compliance Program should be directed to professionalcompliance@aaos.org


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