Vaccinations, Sunglass Safety, and Dr. Oz: AMA Debates Set

The American Medical Association's 538 delegates will convene in Chicago, Il June 6-10. Vaccination policy, the ethics of doctors promoting unproven remedies, transgender military medical care, and are sunglasses sufficiently regulated are just of few of the 250 topics due to come up for discussion.

Everyone's got issues.

About 250 of them--all relating to the practice of medicine-- will be subjects for debate as the American Medical Association convenes its annual House of Delegates meeting June 6-10 in Chicago, IL.

MD Magazine will have a team there to report on what promises to be heated discourse as 538 AMA delegates shape the organization's policy agenda by voting on resolutions and reports.

One hot topic is whether US states should be allowed to grant non-medical exemptions for parents who do not want their children vaccinated. The delegates will be asked to vote on whether to approve a report that calls on the AMA to discourage such leniency.

“The rationale for non-medical exemptions must strike a prudent balance among multiple interests and values, including the welfare of individuals, groups and communities; respect for civil liberties and autonomy; and fairness,” a report from two AMA committees notes. The report recommends “more stringent public policies” limiting these exemptions.

All AMA reports are discussed in committees, then presented to the full group for a vote.

None of the resolutions, if passed by the delegates, will automatically change laws or regulations. However, they can influence lawmakers, regulators, and the public.

There are wide-ranging topics on the agenda.

Another committee report asks the AMA to support efforts to get physicians to report suspected cases of human trafficking to legal authorities.

Sunglasses’ safety is also a concern, as is powdered alcohol, hearing loss from headphones, and preventing concussions among young athletes.Most AMA resolutions come from state delegations.

Louisiana wants the AMA to guarantee confidentiality for physicians who report other physicians whom they believe have mental health problems and similar privacy protections for the physicians who need treatment. In that state, an entity known as a physicians’ health foundation is able to intervene without a formal board of medical examiners’ investigation and see that the troubled physician gets care without risking his or her medical license by disclosing that treatment. But some licensure requirements are in conflict with those foundations’ goals. The resolution would support laws and policy changes to make sure that physicians getting treatment would not have to disclose that fact to the Joint Commission, insurance companies and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as long as the foundation certifies that the doctors “are compliant with treatment” and “do not constitute a threat to the care of themselves or their patients.”

Iowa wants the AMA to urge the Autism Society to support routine vaccinations.

New York, reacting to an ABC television medical show that broadcast the dying moments of a patient injured in a car crash, wants the AMA to resolve that patients’ families must give formal consent to any such broadcast and that “blurring the face, changing the voice, or any other technique” does not sufficiently protect privacy.

Texas is concerned about the need to get prostitutes out of prison and into community-based diversion programs.

The AMA’s medical residents and fellows group is tackling the “Dr. Oz” issue, that is, the ethics of physicians promoting unproven remedies. The Columbia University thoracic surgeon, Mehmet Oz, has been criticized for doing that on his television show. The resolution would favor mandatory disclosures to an audience when a remedy has insufficient science behind it.

Overall, the debates and discussion tend to offer a kaleidoscopic view of the ever-changing world of US medicine, seen from a physician's perspective. Taking the pace of that change into account, a New York resolution calls for more programs on stress and burnout among physicians.

"Without strategies to understand and respond to the vast changes in health care, physicians will become increasingly demoralized and leave the practiace of medicine," the resolution notes, calling on the AMA to "champion programs to assist physicians maintain health, reducing burnout, and regaining a sense of meaning in their proessional lives."

Meeting coverage.