The Journal of the American Medical Association continues its love affair with totalitarianism, it seems. Recently, JAMA Health Forum published an editorial bemoaning freedom of speech and calling it a barrier to public health (Vaccine Misinformation and the First Amendment—The Price of Free Speech Michelle M. Mello, JD, PhD, MPhil JAMA Health Forum. 2022;3(3):e220732. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2022.0732 ).
I didn’t save my submitted comment and I don’t remember it verbatim, but it went something like this:
“I read the commentary by Dr. Mello “Vaccine Misinformation and the First Amendment—The Price of Free Speech” with dismay. The medical establishment did not distinguish itself in its approach to the Covid-19 pandemic. We damaged our messaging with politicization, self-contradiction, false certainty, and frank dishonesty. In our arrogance, rather than examine our shortcomings, we instead insist on our infallibility and blame dissent for our failure. It would be better if we focused more on regaining some of our past humility rather than feeding our hubris by supporting the censorship of dissent by use of force.”
It was rejected as a comment. So far (as of 3/20/2022), JAMA has chosen to publish only two comments, both of which support the censorship position. One would think there are no physicians who believe in basic liberties. I can’t help but wonder how much dissent they are censoring in they own pages.
This is not surprising. It follows a pattern of the AMA/JAMA that has been around for decades. I remember back in 1985, when I was a young resident, when the then Editor In Chief of JAMA, George Lundberg, called for a ban on boxing. A number of physicians wrote letters suggesting that the benefits of liberty should be weighed against the benefits of totalitarianism. Lundberg equated our position with supporting “other great freedoms” such as street gunfights and heroin addiction. (Oliver, W. R. (1985). Boxing. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 253(2), 198. )
The AMA has self-selected its membership into an authoritarian statist subculture that can stand no dissenting thought, and supports the politicization of medicine in support of the so-called “tyranny of health.” It’s a sad process. When I was young, something like 75% of physicians were members of the AMA. Over the years, the organization increasingly lost touch with physicians in America, who, one by one, voted with their feet. As mainstream physicians left, the organization has become dominated by those who are left — a seemingly (to me) increasingly arrogant and strident self-selected minority of physicians. The last time I looked, only 12-17% of physicians (depending on how you count students, residents, and other free or subsidized memberships) are members.
And it’s worse than even this. A professional society I belong to is essentially blackmailed into getting its members into AMA. If a specialty group wants to have a voice in AMA House of Delegates (which is regrettably the basis of much governmental health policy) then there is a minimum membership of the specialty organization that must belong to the AMA. So, almost every year, there’s an appeal to have people join the AMA simply so that the specialty organization will not lose its voice in Washington, DC. As you can imagine, those “members” of the AMA who pony up for this purpose are neither active nor supportive.
It is no wonder that an organization whose very existence depends on its ability to pursue government control of our lives supports more government control.