‘Enough is enough’: AMA president pushes back against disinformation in medicine

In a speech over the weekend, the head of the American Medical Association cited lies aimed at doctors about abortion, gender-affirming care, and threats against physicians.

Jack Resneck Jr., president of the American Medical Association, assailed what he has described as unrelenting disinformation and government interference in healthcare.

He listed the ongoing battles over abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, specifically the enactment of several laws that he says make it increasingly unclear what doctors can do in emergency situations. He also cited harassment of doctors providing gender affirming care and lack of action on addressing gun violence.

Speaking before the AMA’s House of Delegates in Honolulu, Resneck said, “Enough is enough.”

“We cannot allow physicians or our patients to become pawns in these lies,” he said.

The AMA is a non-partisan agency and that’s not going to change, Resneck said. But he said the AMA won’t look the other way in the face of disinformation and attacks that are increasing burnout among physicians.

“Make no mistake,” Resneck said. “When politicians insert themselves in our exam rooms to interfere with the patient-physician relationship … when they politicize deeply personal health decisions or criminalize evidence-based care … we will not back down.

“We will always stand up for our policies … for physicians … and for our patients,” he said.

While some state laws restricting abortion allow procedures to save the patient’s life or avert serious health complications, some laws are confounding doctors and driving them to seek legal counsel before providing care. Legal battles continue at the state level regarding what doctors can do in emergency situations.

Resneck also pushed back against a campaign saying doctors are exaggerating accounts of patients with ectopic pregnancies, complications after miscarriage or being denied typical treatment.

“I never imagined colleagues would find themselves tracking down hospital attorneys before performing urgent abortions, when minutes count … asking if a 30 percent chance of maternal death, or impending renal failure, meet the criteria for the state’s exemptions … or whether they must wait a while longer, until their pregnant patient gets even sicker,” Resneck said.

“In some cases, unstable patients are being packed into ambulances and shipped across state lines for care,” he added.

The AMA has filed briefs in state and federal courts, and has pressed its case before President Biden’s administration and in congressional hearings.

“But I can’t sugar-coat how dangerous it is for physicians to know that governors, legislators, state attorneys general, and law enforcement are all perched on their shoulders in exam rooms, waiting to judge decisions we make in partnership with our patients,” he said. “It’s getting mighty crowded with all those folks squeezing into our exam rooms!"

“We didn’t pick this political fight … but we will stand up for our patients, for the policies of this House, and for our profession.”

Resneck also discussed the attacks aimed at doctors and hospitals that provide gender-affirming care, such as the threats aimed at Boston Children’s Hospital that drew national attention. He said lies are clouding the ability of doctors to care for transgender patients, citing disinformation such as doctors not involving families in healthcare decisions.

The AMA, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and Children’s Hospital Association have sent a joint letter asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to stop the rise in threats and violence aimed at doctors, hospitals and families for providing and seeking gender-affirming healthcare. Resneck derided those who equated that with a call for censorship.

“That’s simply untrue, but it’s part of an effort to criminalize gender-affirming care,” Resneck said. “Physicians understand the evidence that it, along with lessening stigma and discrimination in the community, reduces depression and suicide risk among transgender or nonbinary adolescents.”

The AMA also announced Monday that it has formed a task force focused on firearm violence prevention, including firearm-involved suicide. Healthcare workers have been demanding greater protections due to the rising violence in hospitals, as seen last month in the fatal shooting of a nurse and a social worker in a Dallas hospital.

"In movie theaters, houses of worship, hospitals, big cities and small towns, firearm violence has shattered any sense of security and taken lives," Resneck said in a statement.