THE American Medical Association (AMA) is the largest organisation representing doctors and medical students in the United States. It publishes the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the most prestigious and widely used peer reviewed medical journals. The AMA’s influence in policy making has in the past been legendary, predicated on its network of contacts and wealth.
However, while it is still by far the largest medical union, membership has fallen from 75 per cent of all physicians in the 1950s to under 25 per cent today. Most US physicians no longer believe that the AMA represents their interests, or indeed, the interests of their patients. Another strategy is needed.
The AMA, like the BMA (the British Medical Association), was not always on the side of ‘progress’. It argued against the inclusion of health insurance in the Social Security Act of 1935, fought President Harry Truman’s national health insurance plan in the 1940s and opposed the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s. In the late 1960s and 1970s it actively resisted federal government attempts to improve patient access to care.
In recent years, however, the AMA has become much more politicised, more aligned to the Left wing, more aggressive about expanding access to health care, and active in lobbying to reduce the numbers of the uninsured. It now sees its role as not just to represent doctors but as a social activist body.
It embraced Barack Obama’s Health care reforms, the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ (Obamacare), the goal of which was to lower health care costs and improve quality of life by providing secure access to medical care even without insurance, a notion that most physicians would previously have regarded as an unfair regulatory burden and a socialist restraint of trade.
In 2014, the AMA passed resolutions in support of the LGBT movement (QI++ were later additions) and espoused ‘transgender rights’. In 2020, it declared gun violence a public health crisis and began lobbying for gun control measures.
These moves won plaudits from Left-wing commentators and from socially conscious younger physicians who have worked hard to advance policies the organisation would have previously shunned. It has left many more conservative and apolitical physicians wondering where it is going.
Now, its new president, Gerard E Harmon MD, has revealed all. Harmon is a distinguished five-times decorated retired major general and assistant surgeon general for the US Air Force, a family medicine specialist from South Carolina and a clinical professor at two of South Carolina’s medical schools. He is also a warrior for woke ideology.
Last week the AMA released its strategic plan for the next three years. The document is steeped in politically correct jargon; it details the grievous sins of the association’s past and how it intends to atone for them.
Harmon details his personal experience of attending to ‘Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities and those living in rural areas’. He forgets to mention the growing numbers of white US citizens who suffer from illness, joblessness, homelessness, deprivation and poverty, and who might expect fair access to medical treatment that is blind to their colour.
He disparages the entire US health system as one that has ‘assigned value and advantages to some communities while disadvantaging others’ and cites instances where ethnic minorities are denied access to treatment, eg ‘black women [being] less likely to be referred for cancer screenings than white women, even when family history puts them at greater risk.’
The AMA strategy document genuflects at the altar that is Black Lives Matter, identifying social and health deprivation among minorities as the result of generations of systemic white oppression. It cites deprivation in ‘cities [that] neglect and discourage investment in Black communities, racist housing and lending practices’ and comments that ‘police violence and brutality [is] inflicted on Black and Brown communities everywhere.’
Harmon contends that these are the reasons causing blacks and other ‘historically marginalised groups’ to suffer higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, drug and alcohol dependency, and other chronic illness than whites. He makes no mention of intra-group violence, crime, worklessness or generations of absent fathers. He casts everyone in these minority groups as victims, devoid of agency, talent or ambition. All black people, especially black physicians, should reject this condescending nonsense.
The report’s 85 pages push the narrative of the Left, including identifying ‘systemic barriers’ to care that have ‘contributed to . . . communities of colour [having] . . . been much more likely than white people to suffer severe outcomes from Covid-19’ – a statement that is founded more on the mantra of victimhood than on expert analyses of complex empirical fact. The entire document is a craven testimony to virtue signalling.
Harmon pledges the AMA will advance ‘equity and racial justice’ through social advocacy and affirmative action. It will ‘address determinants of health and root causes of inequities by strengthening, empowering and equipping physicians with the knowledge of, and tools for, dismantling structural and social drivers of health inequities’.
To do so, the association will ‘expand medical education to include critical race theory’, the offshoot of Marxism that views society solely through the lens of a power struggle between oppressors and the oppressed. Institutionalised and discriminatory white supremacist concepts of ‘equality’ and ‘meritocracy’ are to be jettisoned.
Joe Biden and his crew will doubtless look very favourably on the AMA’s efforts: patients, not so much.