ORLANDO (Reuters Health) Dec 07 - After a heated debate, the American Medical Association renewed its support of the Pain Relief Promotion Act, currently being considered by Congress.
The bill seeks to regulate the use of narcotics for palliative care but contains language prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. Several specialty societies within the AMA — most notably the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians/American Society of Internal Medicine and the American Academy of Neurology — have actively opposed the bill.
Dr. Bruce Bagley, a family physician from Latham, New York, said that the AAFP opposes the bill because it exposes physicians to the risk of investigation and prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The AAFP has policy strongly opposing physician-assisted suicide," said Dr. Bagley. "But many caring and thoughtful physicians disagree with this bill and with the AMA's support of this bill."
Dr. Joel M. Karlin, of the AMA's Council on Legislation, said that the AMA originally opposed the Pain Relief Promotion Act, but that it was able to work with Congressional sponsors — especially Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — to eliminate several objectionable parts. With the changes, the AMA agreed to support the bill and the House of Delegates endorsed that support in 1999.
Dr. Karlin said that changing position now would be regarded as a betrayal by Senator Hatch, and could sabotage the AMA's efforts to get Congress to approve legislation that would allow physicians to collectively negotiate with managed care companies and other payers. He said that AMA support of the Pain Relief legislation is a trade-off for Senator Hatch's sponsorship of the collective bargaining bill.
On a voice vote, the delegates easily rejected the attempt to withdraw support of the Pain bill.
In other business, the AMA voted to seek legal means to stop drug companies from collecting and sharing data about individual physician's prescribing habits. The AMA contends that prescribing information is protected under physician-patient privilege and should not be used as a marketing tool.
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