Patients with insufficient financial resources place physicians in a conflict of interest between the patients' needs and the financial interests of the physician, other patients, and society. Not only must physicians act ethically, but they must avoid liability for violating their legal duties to their patients. The traditional rules of contract and malpractice law that govern the patient-physician relationship do not provide satisfactory guidelines. Better answers are found in the rules of fiduciary law, but only with regard to direct conflicts between patients and physicians and only at the risk of reducing patient access to care. Certain types of legislative action can resolve these conflicts by altering the traditional legal rules, but care must be taken to preserve patient-physician trust, which the legal rules were designed to enhance.
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DOI 10.1353/ken.0.0071
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