Holding Professional Societies Accountable

Shortly after Donald Trump nominated Dr. Tom Price to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Academy of Family Physicians released statements supporting his nomination without reservation or qualification.

Many doctors were shocked to see these endorsements from their professional organizations knowing Dr. Price’s legislative track record as Representative from Georgia’s 6th district since 2005. As the New York Times editorial board describes in detail, Dr. Price has repeatedly acted against the interest of Americans’ health and well-being during his time in Congress. For example:

  • He repeatedly voted for legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, threatening to eliminate the health insurance of tens of millions of Americans.
  • He introduced legislation to defund Medicaid for millions of low-income patients who rely on it for life saving medical care.
  • He voted against expansion of the SCHIP program which provides health insurance coverage for children.
  • He repeatedly voted for legislative interference in women’s medical decision-making around their reproductive health and is rated at 0% by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

In other words, although Dr. Price earned his MD from an accredited institution, his actions have demonstrated little respect for the Hippocratic oath.

The reaction of physicians was swift and fierce. Thousands of doctors publicly denounced the AMA. An equal contingent of medical students condemned the AAMC. The National Physicians Alliance joined the fray. In response, the AMA and AAFP privately sent emails to their members reassuring them that these organizations’ values remained unchanged, but without public advocacy for those values, what meaning do they have?

As physicians, doing everything in our power to promote the health and well-being of our patients is not a corny mission statement to copy-and-paste onto a website and ignore when it’s inconvenient. It is the driving force of our clinical, academic, and political practice.

In 2016, when there is so much at stake for our most vulnerable patients, it is a time for personal and professional courage. It is time to call upon our professional societies to stand with us in the fight to ensure that all Americans have access to high quality medical care without legislative interference in the doctor-patient relationship. It is time for these organizations to state clearly the patient-centered principles that they believe in most strongly, and to advocate for these principles on every level.

Opportunities for action (list will be updated)

  1. Call your congressional representatives and voice your support for the greater access to healthcare services and opposition to Tom Price’s nomination. 
  2. Open letter to the AAFP from family doctors
  3. Open letter to the AMA from physicians
  4. Open letter to the AAMC from medical students

 

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