Medical group CEO quits AMA in protest

Baptist Press
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Posted: Dec 16, 2009 4:45 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The head of the nation's largest faith-based medical association has ended his membership in the American Medical Association.

"I can no longer associate with or support an organization that is unscientific, unprofessional and controlled by special interests," David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, wrote in a letter to the AMA dated Dec. 14.

In a Dec. 16 news release, Stevens said he is advising others in the Christian group who belong to the AMA "to carefully consider" whether they also should terminate their AMA memberships.

In his letter to the AMA, Stevens cited the AMA's pro-abortion advocacy and support of embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage and medical marijuana -- and its negotiations with U.S. Senate leaders over Medicare reimbursement rates -- as AMA policies "that contradict and undermine the positions of many physicians."

"The AMA claims to put the needs of patients first and then meets with Senate leaders to bargain for higher physician Medicare reimbursement in exchange for support of health care reform legislation," Stevens' letter said. "This unseemly, behind-closed-doors session trades the future welfare of our patients away for physicians' personal gain. It is a violation of the doctor-patient covenant and sells out our professional heritage.

"The AMA has even violated its own ethical statements in political advocacy at the behest of a vocal pro-abortion faction within AMA," Stevens wrote in his letter. "Your resolution on right of conscience states that the 'AMA reaffirms that neither physician, hospital, nor hospital personnel shall be required to perform any act violative of personally held moral principles.' Yet you have worked vigorously at the federal level to overturn the only federal regulation that protects your members from this type of discrimination."

Baptist Press contacted the AMA's offices in Chicago for comment Dec. 16 but did not receive a statement from the organization by press time.

Stevens, in his letter, wrote that because the American Medical Association is out of step with so many rank-and-file physicians, "It is no wonder that AMA's membership has dropped since the 1960s from nearly three of four practicing doctors to closer to one in five. Personally, I no longer see any hope of changing your radical positions by working from the inside."

The American Medical Association has sacrificed its traditional moorings to focus on a social and political agenda, Southern Baptist ethicist C. Ben Mitchell told Baptist Press Dec. 16.

"The AMA is forcing ethical physicians into a corner by advocating a liberal ideological agenda instead of focusing on the professional virtues of medicine," said Mitchell, who is the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and editor of Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics.

"Dr. David Stevens is a physician of impeccable moral excellence and formidable personal courage. It's a very sad day when doctors like David Stevens can no longer remain members of what was once one of the nation's most esteemed professional organizations," said Mitchell, who also is a longtime consultant with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The AMA claims 250,000 members, but that figure often is questioned in various estimates that it represents only 25 to 40 percent of U.S. doctors.

Founded in 1931 and based in Bristol, Tenn., the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, with 17,000 members, provides "resources, networking opportunities, education and a public voice for Christian health care professionals and students," according to a spokesperson. The group also conducts overseas medical evangelism projects, sponsors student ministries in medical and dental schools, provides continuing education for missionary doctors in developing countries and conducts academic exchange programs overseas, the spokesperson said.

Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.

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