AAMEFall2020

Leading through the American Academy of Medical Ethics

In 1998, Christian Medical & Dental Associations began leading major grassroots efforts to defeat the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. By 2003, it became evident we needed a name to stay below the “anti-Christian” radar in some of our media and legal efforts. Consequently, the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME) was birthed as a vehicle

by Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

In 1998, Christian Medical & Dental Associations began leading major grassroots efforts to defeat the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. By 2003, it became evident we needed a name to stay below the “anti-Christian” radar in some of our media and legal efforts. Consequently, the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME) was birthed as a vehicle to give status and recognition to physicians and other healthcare professionals engaged in bioethics and public policy with us. A vision was cast to equip individuals and develop a more robust engagement with the bioethical challenges of our day.

The initial strategy was to develop an entity that could represent those committed to this cause. Experience taught us we didn’t need a new membership organization to accomplish the vision as we already had more than 18,000 CMDA members standing with us to advance ethical and biblical principles. The result was the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME), a “doing business as” (DBA) entity of CMDA. Therefore, CMDA members are AAME members.

When Brittany Maynard moved from California to Oregon to take her own life after being told she only had six months to live in 2014, she became the “face” of the efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide for Compassion & Choices, propelling them and this issue to national prominence. As a result, it became evident we needed a strategy and leadership in every state in the U.S. to defeat physician-assisted suicide. Through the AAME, we began seeking and developing leaders in each state to stop the growing wave of legalized physician-assisted suicide.

In states where physician-assisted suicide was successfully legalized, it most often started by individuals advocating for their state’s medical society to change its position statement on physician-assisted suicide from a negative position to a neutral position. Indiana AAME state directors Dr. Agnes Schrader and Dr. David Donaldson recognized this and realized this is where they could have the biggest impact. They wrote and presented a resolution to the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) affirming the ISMA’s position against physician-assisted suicide. We sent emails to our CMDA members in Indiana asking them to support the resolution, which resulted in a win when the ISMA affirming its stance against physician-assisted suicide.

When the American Medical Association (AMA) began going down the same path toward a neutral stance, AAME state directors Dr. D. Joy Riley and Dr. Henry Williams started contacting Tennessee state delegates, urging them to remain opposed. AAME Vice President for Residents, Fellows and Students Dr. Tati Santos led a group of students to testify at the AMA meeting that same year to advocate against a change. As a result of these grassroots efforts, the AMA upheld its Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 5.7.

Many other AAME state directors have had a tremendous influence in delaying or stopping the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in their states, and that hard work has been recognized by others. “Don’t underestimate the amount of impact you can have on legislation to legalize assisted suicide. Dr. Gregg Schmedes almost single-handedly prevented legalization in New Mexico with his dogged attention to what the legislature was doing,” said Coalitions Director for the Patient Rights Action Fund Barbara L. Lyons.

Many of the AAME state directors became involved in escalating challenges facing healthcare in bioethics. South Carolina state directors Dr. James Wells and Dr. Richard McCain dove into addressing both physician-assisted suicide and concerns over legalization of marijuana with their state medical society. Their experience allowed Dr. McCain to lead a group of the AAME state directors to develop public policy statements on recreational and medical marijuana for both CMDA and AAME.

To fulfill CMDA’s mission to advance biblical principles of healthcare within the church and throughout the world, CMDA has expanded its public policy staff. In April, Dr. Jeffrey Barrows joined the staff as the Senior Vice President for Bioethics and Public Policy, and in that role he also serves as the President of the American Academy of Medical Ethics. Nichole Hayes is our new Director of State Public Policy, and in her role she is working to support and expand the role of the AAME. Vice President of Government Relations Jonathan Imbody in Washington, D.C. is continuing to work at the federal level in public policy.

In addition, we have implemented a technology-powered global software that monitors important legislation on the state and federal levels and allows us to develop advocacy campaigns quickly with personalized messages from our members. This software provides a way for our members to easily engage with their legislators on important policy issues. Two exciting features with this new software are the ability to score officials based on their votes and data is provided on likeliness of bills passing.

The work the AAME state directors are doing to educate, encourage and equip the medical and scientific community, policymakers and the public to make morally sound policies and decisions that uphold the sanctity and inherent value of human life is more crucial than ever. We are looking for CMDA members to fill positions in several states, including Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota and Rhode Island. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Dr. Jeff Barrows at jeffrey.barrows@cmda.org. Our vision is to expand the work we are doing at the state and federal levels to protect the standard of healthcare in North America defined by the Hippocratic tradition.

The American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME) was founded to protect and promote the historic values that have provided the longstanding foundation for Western healthcare. It is a DBA (doing business as) of Christian Medical & Dental Associations, which has more than 18,000 members. AAME is comprised of healthcare professionals who subscribe to the traditional values of the Hippocratic Oath. For more information, visit www.ethicalhealthcare.org.

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