Who speaks for American physicians? I really don’t know? Do you?
I used to think and say that the American Medical Association (AMA) spoke for American physicians. Of course, that was when I was an employee of the AMA.
I disclose that I remain a more than four decade-long member of the AMA, and I believe that it should speak for American physicians. But physicians speak with many voices; most are fiercely independent. And they, as a highly diverse group, are angry that no one seems to hear their voices.
The obvious reason that the AMA does not speak for American physicians is that a declining minority of them are dues paying members of the AMA.
It is true that, via the votes of representatives of state and specialty societies in the House of Delegates that makes AMA policy, a large number of American physicians are “represented.” But, by and large, those delegates are not elected by their various memberships either.
Here’s a further rub:
If American physicians were to speak with one voice, what would they say?
If the voice were primarily self interest, it should be ignored, since physicians historically are and should continue to be learned professionals.
If such a united voice of physicians were actually representing the best interest of all patients and the public, it would be powerful indeed, listened to, and likely influential.
But the strongest voice would be patients and physicians, united in the best interest of patients as individuals, patients collectively, the health of the public, and the financial health of the nation.
Such a message would of necessity include enlightened shared sacrifice.
Such a united voice could drown out the now dominant commercial and business interests of the vast medical-industrial complex, no matter how much high-priced PR and how many politicians it would buy.
Maybe we could call this new organization the National Association of Patients, Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals (AAPPOHCP)?
There actually already is an organization something like that. It is The Lundberg Institute.
George Lundberg is a MedPage Today Editor-at-Large and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.comfor more health policy news.