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Nonparticipatory democracy at the AMA meeting

Being a voting member of the American Medical Association House of Delegates means being part of an exclusive club—but apparently it doesn't mean you always feel like voting.

Minutes after the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions was admitted into the House of Delegates at the delegates' annual meeting this week in Chicago, House Speaker Dr. Andrew Gurman of Pennsylvania instructed the group's lone delegate, Dr. Joe Babb of North Carolina, to go to registration and pick up his credentials.

He was also told to sit where there was an electronic vote "clicker" waiting for him.

According to an AMA Board of Trustees report, Babb's group was founded in 1978 and has 2,185 members, 562 of whom are AMA members (25.7%). And the AMA may need to add more new member groups as its meeting goes on if Monday's lethargic-voting trend continues.The meeting officially began with the announcement that 490 out of 504 AMA delegates (97%) registered for the meeting. Before the actual voting started, there was a test of the clickers that indicated 460 voting delegates were in attendance. When the last vote of day was taken, some three and a half hours later, only 405 delegates clicked in.

Most decisions are made via voice vote, with the clickers reserved for those that are too close to call.

The voice votes, however, were marked by lethargy as well.

After a quiet vote marked the approval an AMA Council on Ethical Judicial Affairs report on physician responsibilities for safe patient discharge from healthcare facilities, Gurman took the delegates to task.

"There are more than 20 of you out there, but it is adopted," he said. "Let's get in the game."

Vice Speaker Dr. Susan Bailey of Texas didn’t have much luck in energizing the House.

After a particularly quiet vote approving an amendment to a resolution, she noted that the measure passed and then added that it did so by a 3-2 vote.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.
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