Dr. Margaret Flowers and Dr. Carol ParisAs the American Medical Association begins its annual convention in Chicago, we want to take this opportunity to make it clear to the American public, to the media, and to the president and members of Congress, that the AMA does not represent us. It is a common misconception that this organization speaks on behalf of most American physicians but that is a misconception with very serious consequences at such a critical time in the health care reform debate. So long as the public, the media and our elected officials lump all physicians together as “the AMA,” then we are guilty by association of a failure of our Hippocratic oath to “first, do no harm.”

In fact, the AMA represents less than one-third of America’s physicians, and half of those are retired. In fact, the American Medical Student Association endorses universal health care reform.

The AMA’s longstanding opposition to every effort to change health care financing, including Medicare in the 1960s, has resulted in decades of needless and countless morbidity and mortality. Sixty people die every day in this country simply for lack of access to health care. And instead of being an advocate for the only solution that accomplishes the goals of universal coverage and fiscal viability, the single-payer option, the AMA continues to be primarily a trade association looking out for the financial interests of its members.

But who, then, is looking out for the interests of patients? Certainly not Congress and the president. If that were so, the United States would long ago have relieved itself of the dubious distinction of being the only developed country in the world that does not have a universal system of health care. No, the evidence is clear that our Congress and our president are looking out for themselves and continuing the tradition of pay-to-play politics. How else would a reasonable person explain the fact that our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans combined, have accepted $12 million in campaign contributions since 1998 from the American Medical Association?

We would suggest that the American people, the media, President Obama, and the members of Congress need look no further than PNHP, Physicians for a National Health Program, if they want to consult an organization that represents the interests of patients and has been doing so for 22 years.

We are proud members of PNHP. We’re waiting and eager to be consulted. And our physicians are willing and able to continue to engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Health care reform is the civil rights issue of the decade.

The AMA does not represent us.

Dr. Margaret Flowers and Dr. Carol Paris are members of Physicians for a National Health Program.

You can find information on the PNHP or contact the organization on the Web site here.

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