JAMA: Board Member Resigns Over Lundberg Ouster
An editorial board member of the Journal of the American Medical Association resigned last week to protest the firing of the journal's editor, Dr. George Lundberg. Ending his five year career on the board, Dr. Donald Lindberg, director of the National Library of Medicine, said that the firing "creates the wrong impression. It suggests there was some serious fault attributed to Dr. Lundberg or to the board" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/30). Lindberg sent an e-mail to the AMA Thursday announcing his decision. He said, "If you take an institution and bring it to the top, in quality and measure, this is not a proper reward and I cannot be a part of it any longer" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 1/30).
The Chicago Tribune's Bruce Japsen asks, "Was the AMA itself motivated by politics in firing Lundberg?" The AMA spent $17.28 million on lobbying in 1997, more than any other group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Since 1989, the AMA's political action committee has spent nearly twice as much on Republican campaigns, $9.3 million, as on Democrats, $4.8 million. But the AMA's decision to back the Democrats' Patients' Bill of Rights last year soured relationships with some Republicans. Former HCFA Administrator Gail Wilensky said, "The AMA was quite aggressive with patient protection legislation and (Republicans) were disappointed, frustrated and a little annoyed." The Tribune reports, "The JAMA article may have represented the wrong politics at the wrong time for the Republican-leaning AMA." AMA lobbyist Richard Pollack said, "From a strictly hardball political standpoint, if they didn't take the action they took, they would have been further at risk in terms of the relationships with Republicans." But Wilensky concludes that the AMA's decision to sack Lundberg "isn't going to buy them anything" with Republicans (Japsen, 1/31).
'Bleak Days for Doctors'?
Time magazine this week reports that Lundberg's firing is "one more example of how far the AMA, and by extension the entire medical profession, has fallen. ... Managed care has slashed revenue as overhead continues to climb. Physicians have to see more patients in less time. Nurses and pharmacists are poaching on their territory. Bureaucrats second-guess their decisions. Is it any wonder that union memberships and disability claims are soaring among doctors?" Time argues that the profession is suffering an "identity crisis," and quotes Dr. Karen Hill of Texas, who said, "So often we find ourselves practicing insurance rather than medicine. We need to get back to the reason our profession exists: our patients" (Gorman, 1/8 issue).