The American Medical Association has long ceased to be a serious advocate for doctors. It instead has become a propaganda arm for the wackier factions of the public health movement. The Chicago Sun Times reports that at its annual meeting this week, the AMA is considering throwing its support behind a move to tax soda sales, with proceeds going to various anti-obesity measures. This, despite little evidence that soda consumption is linked to weight gain (non-diet soda consumption has remained virtually unchanged since 1988). Not to mention the fact that if we've learned anything about sin taxes, it's that they're inevitably used for projects far removed from those educational programs promised when they're enacted.
The soda tax endorsement comes on the heels of the AMA's embarassing attempt to pass off a web-based survey (which the organization later admitted was an "advocacy" tool) about alcohol consumption as scientific research, complete with a fake margin of error. Last year, the same organization and its president expressed shock that -- gasp! -- most minors get their first taste of alcohol from... their parents. Seems to me that the supervising eye of a parent would be the ideal circumstance under which a minor would get his first sip of beer or wine, wouldn't it?
Consider these other action items from the agenda for the AMA's annual meeting this week:
- Support a 50 percent reduction in salt in processed foods, fast foods and restaurant meals over the next decade.
- Oppose beer ads on college sports broadcasts.
- Prepare a report summarizing video game research, including emotional and behavioral effects and addictive potential.
- Push to ban smoking in all public places and workplaces.
- Support mandatory school instruction on the dangers of Internet pornography.
Meanwhile, as it continues to tell parents how to raise their children, and push for government regulation of private behavior, the AMA has been conspicuously silent, passive, or just plain wrong on issues you'd think would be high-priority for a group that claims to represent doctors: The relentless DEA campaign against doctors who specialize in pain management, for example. Pain activists say the AMA has been AWOL. And not only didn't the AMA oppose many of the more onerous HIPAA regulations, it lobbied for their enforcement. The organization has also taken a relatively passive stance of the federal prohibition on medical marijuana, which puts political drug eradication goals ahead of patient care.
The AMA's percentage of revenue from membership dues has fallen over the last few years. It now counts just 26% of U.S. physicians among its dues-paying members.
Given the organization's priorities, I can see why. Journalists should keep that figure in mind when reporting on official AMA positions. The group certainly doesn't represent the opinion of all doctors. Of, for that matter, even a majority of them.