The American Medical Association House of Delegates will discuss a range of issues at its interim meeting in Dallas Saturday through Tuesday, including whether to issue a formal declaration that Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel ran afoul of the AMA Code of Medical Ethics when he wrote an article expressing that he would prefer to die once he reaches age 75.
Emanuel's article appeared in the October issue of the Atlantic Monthly magazine and led Dr. Gregory Pinto, an AMA delegate from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to introduce a resolution (PDF) calling for the AMA to declare its opposition to Emanuel's position because it runs contrary to the AMA Code of Ethics.
The AMA Foundation, the association's philanthropic arm, honored Emanuel last November with its Isaac Hays, M.D. and John Bell, M.D. Award for Leadership in Medical Ethics and Professionalism. The award is named after the original co-authors of the AMA ethics code and it is given to a member “who has made an outstanding contribution through active service in medical ethics activities and demonstrated dedication to the principles of medical ethics and the highest standards of medical practice.”
"Dr. Emanuel's devotion to improving the medical profession through extensive ethics research and education serves as a shining example of a distinguished career in service of others," AMA Foundation President Dr. Edmond Cabbabe said in a release at the time.
Regarding Emanuel's Atlantic Monthly article, Pinto wrote in the resolution that Emanuel “expressed an opinion that life is less valuable with advancing age,” and noted that “such a sentiment is even more disturbing because it comes from one of the architects of national healthcare policy.”
The resolution calls on the AMA to issue a statement declaring its opposition to Emanuel's stance and to note how its disagreement is based on principles found in its Code of Ethics. It also calls on the AMA Foundation “to make it clear” that the AMA doesn't endorse every position taken by the foundation's award recipients and for the foundation to rescind Emanuel's award.
Former AMA President Dr. Donald Palmisano, a clinical professor of surgery and medical jurisprudence at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, also had harsh words for Emanuel. He also referred to Emanuel as “a chief architect” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Dr. Emanuel's article is his opinion,” Palmisano wrote in the Sept. 28 edition of his DJP Update online newsletter. “But if the government adopts such an approach though the IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board) of PPACA or some other scheme yet to be devised, then we have a problem!”
Palmisano also acknowledged his personal stake in the issue.
“I am 75 years old,” he wrote. “And I tell the medical students I teach at Tulane if some future government edict states people my age should be ignored and put on a gurney in the corner of the emergency department if they are in an auto accident, don't follow the rule.”
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