(This article first appeared at The American Thinker on 11/7/2009.)
By the late 1930's Americans began to recognize the health risks associated with smoking. The tobacco companies responded by enlisting the use of physicians and some decidedly questionable studies (see vintage Philip Morris ad here) in their advertising:
Now the Democrats attempting to foist their public option upon us have drafted physicians again to promote a raft of legislation that will do just as much harm to the public health as those disingenuous cigarette ads. Despite considerable dissension in the ranks, it appears the AMA is willing to horse-trade with the Democrats:
"Dr. James Rohack, the Temple cardiologist who heads the 250,000-member American Medical Association, said the bill isn't perfect but goes a long way toward expanding access to health coverage and making the system better. He said it must be passed with a companion bill that averts a 21 percent cut to Medicare reimbursement."
Of course, the AMA doesn't speak for all physicians:
"Sermo.com, a 3-year-old physician-only online community, has recently become a hotbed of discussion against the AMA. Its founder, Dr. Daniel Palestrant, posted that he was "joining ranks with physicians who believe the AMA no longer speaks for them."
The results of a survey of 4,156 physicians were recently posted on the site. Of the respondents, 75% are not AMA members, and 89% claim that, "The AMA does not speak for me," while 91% do not believe the AMA accurately reflects their opinions as physicians."
And the AMA, at least according to one U.S. Senator with a long history of engaging the organization, appears to be easily manipulated by politicians:
"I continue to be perplexed at the short-term focus of the AMA on this issue - over which they are willing to swallow hook, line and sinker the rest of the Pelosi bill,' Cornyn said. 'The Pelosi bill not only fails to include common-sense medical liability reform for physicians, but it includes a new government program that will have all the same problems we've seen with Medicare.'"
Cornyn last week told the Associated Press that "I can't think of a more ineffective organization when it comes to dealing with Congress" than the AMA. "The lesson I've learned ... is if you agree to fix their compensation, they will basically get in the tank with their natural adversaries." (ibid Houston Chronicle)
In short, the American public needn't be swayed by the quizzical stand taken by some physicians in support of their narrow financial interest. At least not any more than consumers should have been convinced that smoking a different brand of cigarettes would heal the effects of previous damage from smoking.