Code of Ethics
The medical profession has long subscribed to a body of ethical statements developed primarily for the benefit of the patient. Likewise, the American College of Cardiology ("ACC") recognizes that its members have certain ethical obligations to their patients, profession, each other, as well as to the community and world at large. As a member of the medical profession and ACC, an ACC member must recognize, respect, and adhere to these obligations.
The ACC Code of Ethics (the "ACC Code") strives to set standards and provide guidance for members of the American College of Cardiology acting within the organization, in their clinical practice, and in their professional activities, generally.
The ACC Code sets forth the governing principles, values, and beliefs shared by the members of the American College of Cardiology, as well as the ethical behavior and standards of conduct expected in conformance with these principles and beliefs.
Adherence to the ACC Code is a condition of ACC membership. A member may be admonished, censored, placed on probation, suspended or expelled for violating the ACC Code. Allegations of violations of the ethical principles set forth in this ACC Code may be brought in accordance with the procedures described in the ACC Professional Conduct Program Procedures set forth below. Any judicial review of an ACC disciplinary action adversely affecting membership status shall take place in, and be governed exclusively in accordance with the laws of, the District of Columbia. The ACC Code may be revised or replaced periodically and it is the obligation of members to be informed of and adhere to these changes.
1. Relationship with Patients
2. Relationship with Other Professionals
3. Relationship with ACC
4. Relationship to the Community and to Government
5. Training and Continuing Medical Education Responsibilities
6. Expert Witness Testimony
7. Conflicts of Interest
ACC Professional Conduct Program Procedures – Hearing and Adjudication Rules
Automatic Suspension of Membership
The following shall be grounds for automatic suspension of membership:
For purposes of clarity, the voluntary relinquishment of the right to practice medicine due to a temporary or permanent disability, retirement, or a change in geographic location is not grounds for automatic suspension of membership.
Hearing and Adjudication Rules
Any complaints or violations of the ACC Code that do not constitute grounds for automatic suspension of membership shall be governed by the following procedures for hearing and adjudicating charges alleging violations of the ACC Code and/or ACC Bylaws brought by an ACC member against another ACC member (the "Program Procedures").
I. Initiation of Complaint: Only a current member of the American College of Cardiology in good standing may initiate a complaint against another member of the American College of Cardiology. Complaints must specifically allege a violation(s) based on ACC's Bylaws or the ACC Code, which could be the basis for ACC to take disciplinary action against the member. All complaints must be dated and submitted in writing to the ACC Legal Affairs Department with all documentation and materials for review by the Ethics & Compliance Committee included, and under the signature of the member bringing the complaint (hereafter the "Complainant"). The complaint must site the specific section of the ACC Code and/or Bylaws that was allegedly violated by the ACC member. Information in the complaint should be provided consistent with HIPAA regulations and any other applicable laws and regulations. The Complainant must allege first-hand or actual knowledge of the alleged conduct and provide any related documentation and other evidence. Complaints alleging conduct in connection with any pending or appealable matters in connection with any litigation, arbitration, mediation, review by an institutional, state or federal review board or panel, or review by another peer review process will not be addressed until the final resolution of the process. Upon receipt of the complaint, the ACC Legal Affairs Department will confirm that the complaint meets the required format and other requirements for initiation of a complaint. If the complaint is deficient in any respect, the Legal Affairs Department will return it to the Complainant within thirty (30) days of receipt indicating the reason(s) for its return. The Complainant may resubmit an amended complaint. If the complaint is submitted by a Complainant without jurisdiction to submit a complaint under the Code of Ethics and these Program Procedures, the Legal Affairs Department will return it to the Complainant within thirty (30) days of receipt indicating the reason for return. If appropriate, the Legal Affairs Department may provide an alternative institutional, state, federal, or professional review board, panel or organization that may consider the complaint, but shall not in any manner represent or guarantee that such board, panel or organization will address the complaint.
II. Receipt and Acknowledgement of Complaint: Within thirty (30) days of receipt of the complaint, the Legal Affairs Department will send a written acknowledgement to the Complainant to confirm ACC's receipt, the intention of the Complainant to proceed, and provide the Complainant with a copy of the Program Procedures, as well as to solicit any additional information or documentation regarding the complaint. ACC's Legal Affairs Department will forward the complaint and any accompanying materials to the Chair of the ACC Ethics & Compliance Committee for an initial review. The Ethics & Compliance Committee will keep the complaint and any related documentation and proceedings confidential, except as otherwise set forth in Section X of these Program Procedures.
III. Initial Evaluation: The Chair of the Ethics & Compliance Committee (the "Chair") or his or her designee, with the assistance of the Legal Affairs Department and any outside expert(s) the Chair desires to consult on a confidential basis, will conduct an initial evaluation of the complaint. The initial evaluation will determine if the complaint alleges conduct requiring an automatic sanction pursuant to the Automatic Suspension of Membership section of this ACC Code, or if a prima facie case of a violation has been made. The Chair shall make a recommendation to the Ethics & Compliance Committee at the next meeting as to whether the Ethics & Compliance Committee shall review and investigate or dismiss the complaint on the basis of this evaluation. A simple majority vote of the Ethics & Compliance Committee members present at a meeting with a quorum will accept or reject the Chair's recommendation. If the Ethics & Compliance Committee accepts the Chair's recommendation to proceed, then the complaint is deemed "accepted" and will proceed. If the Ethics & Compliance Committee accepts the Chair's recommendation to dismiss or rejects the Chair's recommendation for further review and investigation, then the complaint will be dismissed. The Complainant will be notified in writing of the decision and grounds for the Ethics & Compliance Committee's decision within thirty days (30) days.
IV. Notice and Hearing: Within thirty (30) days of the Ethics & Discipline Committee's acceptance of any complaint, the subject of the complaint (the "Respondent") will be provided with a notice that: (i) states a disciplinary action that may adversely affect Respondent's ACC Membership has been proposed to be taken against the Respondent, and (ii) provides the reasons for the proposed action in the form of a complete copy of the complaint with any accompanying materials. The notice also shall contain: (i) a copy of the Program Procedures, the ACC Code, and the ACC Bylaws and (ii) a statement that the Respondent has thirty (30) days from receipt of the notice to request a hearing on the proposed action or, in the alternative, to waive the right to a hearing and request a decision based exclusively on whatever written response and supporting documentation or materials he or she provides the Disciplinary Review Panel, as described in Section VI herein, within sixty (60) days from the receipt of the notice. The Respondent will be further advised in the notice that failure to request a hearing within the thirty (30) day time limit is a waiver of the right to a hearing. Once notice has been provided to the Respondent, the Respondent may not resign his or her ACC membership until the resolution of the disciplinary process, including any hearing or appeals.
V. Request for Hearing: If Respondent requests a hearing, the Respondent will be given a notice stating (i) the place, date and time of the hearing, which shall not be less than thirty (30) days nor more than six (6) months after the date of the notice unless all parties agree otherwise, and (ii) a list of the witnesses, if any, expected to testify at the hearing. The Complainant will be provided with a complete copy of the Respondent's submissions. If the Respondent fails to request a hearing or fails without good cause and prior notice to appear at the hearing, then the Respondent's right to a hearing is forfeited. Notwithstanding any forfeiture, the hearing shall proceed without the Respondent participating or possessing any of the hearing and appeal rights. However, the Disciplinary Review Panel Members shall consider any written statement and supporting documentation or materials that the Respondent previously supplied the Disciplinary Review Panel.
VI. Composition of Disciplinary Review Panel: The Chair will select three (3) members of the Ethics & Compliance Committee to constitute and serve on a Disciplinary Review Panel. If the Chair chooses not to serve as a voting member of the Disciplinary Review Panel, the Chair will serve as a non-voting ex-officio member of the Panel. The Disciplinary Review Panel members then shall unanimously select and invite two additional ACC members with relevant expertise in the subject matter of the case to sit on the Disciplinary Review Panel. None of the members of the Disciplinary Review Panel shall be in direct economic competition with the Respondent or Complainant or have other acknowledged or significant perceived conflicts of interest in connection with the Respondent or Complainant. The Respondent and Complainant will be provided with the names of the Disciplinary Review Panel members and have fifteen (15) days to challenge any Disciplinary Review Panel member on the grounds of acknowledged or perceived conflicts of interest. The immediate past ACC President, Board of Governors Chair, and General Counsel shall address the challenge.
VII. Adjudication and Hearing Process: Only the Disciplinary Review Panel members, each party and one representative or attorney representing each party, ACC General Counsel (and/or designee) and the court reporter shall attend the hearing. On the date, time, and place of the hearing, the proceedings will be recorded by a court reporter. Either party may obtain a copy of the transcript of the proceedings upon payment of any reasonable charges related to its preparation. The transcript will be the official and exclusive record of the hearing. Each party may make a presentation to the Disciplinary Review Panel of no more than thirty (30) minutes and provide written briefs. Rules of evidence shall not apply. The Chair of the Disciplinary Review Panel shall have the authority to reasonably extend presentation time upon request by a party during the hearing. Within the thirty (30) minute timeframe, the parties may call witnesses and they may also submit notarized affidavits from third parties. The Disciplinary Review Panel may ask questions directly of the Complainant or Respondent at any time during the hearing. The Disciplinary Review Panel may request additional information of the Complainant and Respondent and of outside experts. Cross examination of witnesses shall only be permitted at the sole discretion of the Chair. The Disciplinary Review Panel shall not consider additional complaints or allegations based on the same facts. At the close of the hearing, the parties may make a closing statement lasting no more than ten (10) minutes and may submit a written statement.
A. Admonition - A written notification, warning, or serious rebuke.
E. Expulsion - A permanent severance of relationship with ACC. If a Fellow (or MACC or AACC), the Certificate of Fellowship (or of MACC or AACC) and all other indicia of Fellowship, MACC or AACC previously issued to him/her by ACC must be returned forthwith to ACC. He/she shall not hold himself/herself out as, or pretend to be, a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (or MACC or AACC if applicable), thereafter. He/she shall not be eligible for reapplication for membership in ACC.
X. Appeal to the Board of Trustees: Only the Respondent may appeal a decision of the Ethics & Compliance Committee for disciplinary action. A request for an appeal to the Board of Trustees must be made within thirty (30) days of the date on the notification of the Respondent of the decision of the Ethics & Compliance Committee. The Respondent's appeal request to the Board of Trustees may include a written brief with any supporting materials. An appeal request shall not contain any new factual material or new documents, or raise new arguments that were not presented in the initial hearing process and made part of the official record of the Disciplinary Hearing proceeding. The appeal will not consider any matters not included as part of the official record of the Ethics & Compliance Committee's investigation and the Disciplinary Review Panel's deliberations. The appeal is limited to a review of the Ethics & Compliance Committee and the Disciplinary Review Panel's application of the ACC Code and the Program Procedures. The Chair of the Ethics & Compliance Committee and Chair of the Disciplinary Review Panel shall be present when the Board of Trustees considers an appeal. Three representative members of the Board of Trustees appointed by the Board of Trustees shall serve as the appeals panel and shall vote by a majority vote to accept, reject, or modify the determination of the Ethics & Compliance Committee. Any member of the Ethics & Compliance Committee or Disciplinary Review Panel who also is a member of the Board of Trustees shall not serve on the Board of Trustees appeal panel or otherwise participate in the appeals process or deliberation. The Respondent shall be promptly notified of the Board of Trustees' decision, including the basis of the decision. Decisions of the Board of Trustees are final and not appealable.
XI. Disclosure and Reporting: Any sanction imposed on a Respondent shall be made available to the public by posting the sanction on the public section of the ACC website along with the general category and a summary of the violation for the duration of the sanction. The final written disposition of the case shall be made available upon written request by ACC members. ACC Governors and/or Chapters shall be officially notified of all actions resulting in the probation, suspension, or expulsion of an ACC member in the respective state of the Chapter. The complaint file shall be retained by ACC for three (3) years and treated as confidential. After three (3) years the file will be destroyed. If required by law, the sanction will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank and state licensing boards as applicable to the Respondent.