Can Doctors Accept Gifts From Patients?

Are gifts for doctors appropriate in the doctor patient relationship? Should doctors refuse all offerings of gratitude that come their way?  Can doctors even accept gifts from patients?  Patients often give objects of gratitude to doctors as an appreciative sign of great thanks for  for the care they have provided.  Some years I may go unappreciated for my efforts.   Some years I get thanked for a job well done for spending time with the patient and their family.   Some years I have patients that hate me.  Some years I even I have  patients that hate me and love me.

I can understand getting a card as a thank you for a job well done.  Patients want doctors to know  they appreciate their hard work and sacrifice.  But what about going beyond the card?  What about giving gifts to doctors that have some emotional, sentimental or monetary value?  It's natural for many patients to want to give their doctor a gift around the Christmas season.  

Is it OK for doctors to accept homemade gifts from patients?  These are gifts for doctors that often carry a strong emotional tone of gratitude.  I was cleaning out my closet the other day when I found these  homemade Christmas ornaments pictured here hiding in a shoe box.  I had forgotten about these ornaments I  received from a patient of mine many years ago that I followed in outpatient  residency clinic.

She was one of the nicest ladies I had ever met.  She came to me with uncontrolled metabolic syndrome and three years later, on my last day of residency clinic I had every PQRS  quality measure you could imagine controlled to the tee.

These ornaments brought back many memories of my interaction with her during clinic.  I felt awful about finding these ornaments stashed away in a shoebox.    Mrs Happy hung the ornaments on the tree yesterday.  As far as gifts to doctors go, it was of no monetary value.  But it was probably a moment of great satisfaction for her to give me these beautiful homemade Christmas ornaments.    Emotionally, she invested her spirit  in making these Christmas ornaments for me.

Should doctors refuse gifts that have any monetary value? There are some wealthy patients out there who have the means to provide large gifts to their doctors, such as trips to Hawaii.  Should doctors accept them?  What is the AMA position on receiving gifts from patients?

There is no fixed value that determines whether a gift from patients should be accepted or turned down.  According to the AMA code of ethics, the gift should not be accepted if it is meant to encourage preferential treatment or if accepting the gift represents an economic hardship for the patient.  Otherwise, gift away.

What has been your experience with receiving gifts from patients?   How about you nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants  out there. What has been your experience as well?  Oh yeah, also.  Have you ever regifted a patient's gift?



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