Dermatology World

Let's get ethical

Legally Speaking

Rob Portman

Rob Portman is a health care attorney with Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville in Washington, D.C., and serves as General Counsel for the AAD and AADA.

By Robert M. Portman, JD, MPP, September 2, 2013

Let’s face it — no one wants to report a colleague for an ethical violation. But the American Academy of Dermatology’s Code of Medical Ethics for Dermatologists imposes an affirmative obligation on its members to do precisely that in certain circumstances, such as false expert witness testimony, self-medicating, or inappropriate behavior with patients, their staff, or Academy staff. Filing such a report can have severe repercussions for the accused member, but can also create potential legal risks and other problems for the complainant. Therefore, it is incumbent upon Academy members to be familiar with their obligations under the Code and the procedures for filing and adjudicating complaints, both of which are available on the Academy’s website at

Obligation to report

The Code sets forth the dermatologist’s obligation to report a colleague for an ethical violation or a violation of the Academy’s bylaws or other policies as follows:

Academy members are expected to report knowledge of violations of the Bylaws, Code of Ethics, or other Administrative Regulations or Board-approved policies to the Academy. When a member is convinced that another member is violating the Bylaws, Code of Ethics, other Administrative Regulations, or Board-approved policies, the member should send a confidential written communication to the Academy’s secretary-treasurer or executive director. The information so submitted will then be further investigated and processed according to the provisions of the Bylaws and Administrative Regulations. 

The Code also encourages dermatologists to work with their peers to prevent or stop unethical or illegal activity and/or to report such misconduct to the proper legal authorities.