Edward Hirshfeld, the American Medical Association's vice president for health law, died last week at age 48.
Hirshfeld, a specialist on physician antitrust issues, was a prolific writer and speaker who crafted the legal and economic rationale that led federal regulators to relax antitrust standards for physicians during the 1990s.
Recently, Hirshfeld focused his efforts on using the antitrust exemption for labor organizations as a vehicle for doctors to negotiate collectively with health plans.
Friends said Hirshfeld collapsed in his Chicago home early last week. As of late last week, the AMA had not released an official statement on his death or any information on the cause of death.
The son of a surgeon, Hirshfeld was remembered as a tireless advocate for physicians. Yet his well-crafted legal arguments commanded universal respect. In the political world of the AMA, he stood out as a scholar.
"He wasn't slick. He advanced his views because he sincerely believed they were the right ones," said Mark Horoschak, former head of the Federal Trade Commission's healthcare division.
The FTC issued a statement saying, "Ed Hirshfeld worked with many at the FTC over the years and was highly regarded by all who dealt with him for his intellect and professionalism."
Hirshfeld graduated from Cornell University law school in 1976 and worked for Gardner, Carton & Douglas in Chicago, where he became a partner. He left in 1988 to join the Chicago-based AMA, which had launched an initiative to influence health policy through the courts.
"He was endlessly worried and working on the problems of the (medical) profession. I mean, he cared," said former AMA general counsel Kirk Johnson, who left the physician lobby group last year and is now with Chicago-based CNA Health Partners.