ADA Code of Ethics celebrates 150 years

This year, the American Dental Association's Code of Ethics is celebrating its 150-year anniversary. As a condition of ADA membership, members voluntarily agree to abide by the principles of ethics and code of professional conduct detailed in the ADA Code of Ethics, committing themselves to high ethical standards of conduct and a "patient-first promise." With a consistent fundamental purpose of putting the welfare of patients first, the ADA Code of Ethics is, in effect, a written expression of the obligations arising from the implied contract between the dental profession and society.

The patient-first promise means ADA members promise to "respect," "do no harm," "do good," "be fair," and "be truthful."

The ADA Code has three main components: The Principles of Ethics, the Code of Professional Conduct and the Advisory Opinions. The Principles of Ethics are the aspirational goals of the profession. The five fundamental principles consist of "patient autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice and veracity." The Code of Professional Conduct, a product of the ADA's legislative system, is an expression of specific types of conduct that are either required or prohibited. The Advisory Opinions are interpretations that apply the Code of Professional Conduct to specific fact situations. They are adopted by the ADA's Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs to provide guidance to the membership on how the Council might interpret the Code of Professional Conduct in a disciplinary proceeding.

While the ADA Code turns 150 this year, it is an evolving document and by its very nature cannot be a complete articulation of all ethical obligations. The ADA Code is the result of an ongoing dialogue between the dental profession and society, and as such, is subject to continuous review.

For more, see the ADA Code at ada.org/ethics.

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The ADA Foundation (ADAF) is now accepting applications for its Semi-annual Grants Program: Access to Care, which supports nonprofit organizations whose charitable activities provide access to care and dental homes to the underserved.