Established in 1847, the American Medical Association (AMA) is the U.S.A.’s largest group of doctors with 243,000 members (2017.) The group was founded to promote medical standards in education, form a code of ethics for physicians and improve public health. Though it sounds like a public service all can benefit from, the group has always been political. They lobby, contribute to the campaign funds of certain candidates and have a Political Action Committee. According to the AMA’s website, “The AMA has developed the Very Influential Physician (VIP) grassroots program to help physicians, residents and medical students take on a leadership role in grassroots activities and to build and leverage the contacts they have with their elected officials to advance our shared agenda on Capitol Hill.”
Despite its political agenda, the AMA’s code of ethics states, “When physicians wish to express their personal political views to a patient or a patient’s family, the physician must be sensitive to the imbalance of power in the patient-physician relationship, as well as to the patient’s vulnerability and desire for privacy. Physicians should refrain from initiating political conversations during the clinical encounter. Physicians must not allow differences with the patient or family about political matters to interfere with the delivery of professional care.” However, when it comes to firearms, the AMA has advocated for waiting periods, argued against Stand Your Ground laws and supported bans on Modern Sporting Rifles. In 2012, the organization fought Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act which prevented doctors from noting firearm ownership in medical records. Two years ago, the AMA House of Delegates officially declared “gun violence” as a “public health crisis.”
At this year’s annual policy-making meeting, the AMA voted on supporting many gun-control measures. David Barbe, AMA President (who left the position last week) said, “The AMA must not back down from addressing gun violence. The fact that this problem continues to worsen has spurred a new sense of urgency in this house even while Congress fails to act.” According to Yahoo news, the AMA finds “gun violence” to be “as menacing as a lethal infectious disease.” Those measures the AMA voted to support included raising the purchasing age of firearms and ammo to 21, gun restraining orders, licensing of gun owners and (alarmingly) a federal registration of guns.
How much clout does the AMA have? According to Encyclopedia.com, “The AMA is one of the nation’s leading lobbying forces, and its political action committee, which dispenses money to political campaigns, is also one of the nation’s wealthiest.” A study done by Steven H. Landers and Ashwini R. Sehgal, MD found that there is an average of 29,000 meetings between lobbying physicians and lawmakers a year, which are 44 percent effective. In 2016, the AMA spent $22 million in lobbying efforts, part of which helped pass a bill that changed how doctors got paid from Medicare—including a 0.5 percent pay increase.
There is no shortage of those who are critical of the AMA, including Tom Rogan of the Washington Examiner, who wrote, “Because the AMA is not a simple doctors’ club. It’s a lobbying group with specific, vested interests. Namely, the pursuit of maximized doctor earnings, interests, and protections under law.”
Does the AMA have a genuine interest in preventing accidental gun deaths? Or is there something else at play here?
Because our interest lays in protecting the Second Amendment, let’s compare the NRA to the AMA—the NRA spent a total of $144.3 million dollars on lobbying and candidate campaign support from 1998 to 2015. This amount of spending doesn’t even put the NRA on the list of the top 15 lobbying spenders. Both member-supported organizations, the AMA and NRA work to fight for the rights of its members. The big difference is, gun owners have no monetary gain for enjoying their freedoms, while physicians on the other hand…
I also question how much of a “public health crisis” is “gun violence.” There are 13,000 deaths a year (on average) due to guns (this number excludes suicides.) There are 250,000 deaths a year due to medical screw-ups. In fact, according to attorneys Miller & Zois, LLC, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Has the American Medical Association lobbied for medical reform that protects patients from accidental deaths at the hands of their doctors? No. Quite the opposite, actually. The AMA fights for tighter regulations on medical liability lawsuits, like caps on how much money one can sue for.
One in three doctors is sued for medical malpractice. That’s a high number. I’m not one for frivolous lawsuits, but after looking at the statistics, the 1 to 3 ratio doesn’t sound that unrealistic. Studies have shown that almost half of obstetricians and gynecologists have changed the way they practice medicine due to their fear of medical liability claims. The AMA writes, “…because medical liability insurance is so costly, the fear of liability hangs like a cloud over physicians—and it never goes away.” What is the AMA supporting and protecting here? It’s not protecting us, the patients. It’s protecting its members’ money.
So, go right ahead, AMA, do it for the children…this NRA member will be watching you.