Monday, September 19, 2022
The American Medical Association, in response to a letter from Senator Warren, wrote a formal letter to the United States Senate on state abortion restrictions dated September 9th. Key excerpts emphasized compromised patient care, vague and complicated state laws, and the importance of doctor-patient decision-making.
While AMA policy recognizes that our members’ individual views on abortion are determined by their own values and beliefs, we firmly and unequivocally support patients’ access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care options, including abortion, as a right. Our policies are the result of a democratic process in which physicians representing every state and national specialty medical society come together in our House of Delegates. In alignment with our long-held position that the termination of a pregnancy is a medical matter between the patient and physician, subject only to the physician’s clinical judgment, the patient’s informed consent, and access to appropriate facilities, the AMA opposes any government or any other third-party interference that compromises or criminalizes patient access to safe, evidence-based medical care. Unfortunately, patient care is being compromised now, patients are suffering from lack of access to necessary care, and some are at risk of dying due to delayed care in the context of termination of ectopic pregnancies or patients experiencing intrauterine infections, pre-eclampsia, malignancies, or hemorrhage during pregnancy.
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Physicians have been placed in an impossible situation—trying to meet their ethical duties to place patient health and well-being first, while attempting to comply with vague, restrictive, complex, and conflicting state laws that interfere in the practice of medicine and jeopardize the health of patients.
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The foundation of the patient-physician relationship relies upon honest, open communication and trust, which is undermined by substituting lawmakers’ views for a physician’s expert medical judgment. It is each physician’s ethical responsibility to help his or her patients choose the optimal course of treatment through shared decision-making that is fully informed by evidence-based medical science and definitively shaped by patient autonomy. Anything less puts patients at risk and undermines both the practice of medicine and our nation’s health. The AMA Code of Medical Ethics states that “The relationship between a patient and a physician is based on trust, which gives rise to physicians’ ethical responsibility to place patients’ welfare above the physician’s own self-interest or obligations to others, to use sound medical judgment on patients’ behalf, and to advocate for their patients’ welfare.” The AMA opposes any effort to undermine the basic medical principle that clinical assessments, such as viability of a pregnancy and safety of the pregnant person, are determinations to be made only by health care professionals with their patients.