I wrote a very difficult letter today. I resigned from the organization that is supposed to support Family Physicians in our education, practice management and good medical care of our patients. Instead, the American Academy of Family Physicians too often strays toward forcing its members to be complicit with controversial policies such as condoning gun control and over-the-counter contraceptive drugs, and condemnation of “reparative therapy” for homosexual patients, even when those patients are unhappy with their sexuality. I write about my main conflicts and the “final straw” in the letter:
It is with great regret that I write this letter as notice that I have decided not to renew either my Texas or American Academy of Family Practice membership. While I am still a family doctor, neither the Texas Academy of Family Practice (TAFP) nor the American Academy of Family Practice (AAFP) represent my political or ethical views.
The political, social and ethical controversies were the main reason I remained in the Academy for the last few years since I left full time practice. I hoped that I could make a difference by volunteering my time and money as an active participant in the Texas Academy, the National Conference of Special Constituencies, the AAFP list serves, the Academy Legislative meetings in DC and our annual AAFP Congress of Delegates.
From the time of Hillary Clinton’s closed meetings on healthcare to the endorsement of the passage of the ACA before it was written, the political actions of the AAFP leaders has disappointed me in Washington, DC. Our practice hassle factors have grown and grown, too often with the blessings of – and sometimes due to the experiments with alternative methods of practice by – the Academy.
The AAFP advocated for elective abortion before I joined as a Student member and I accepted that the burden of persuasion was on those of us who disagreed.
However, the Academy’s decision to advocate for the redefinition of marriage in 2012 and the refusal to reconsider the extracted Resolution on marriage neutrality at the 2013 Congress of Delegates in San Diego were the final proof that there’s no tolerance for family doctors who hold conservative politics or traditional ethics in the Academy.
Unfortunately, our TAFP spokesperson to the 2013 AAFP Reference Committee on Advocacy misrepresented the Texas Delegation’s instructions from the Directors on marriage. As I remember the discussion and vote, the intention was to allow the Texas delegates wide latitude in voting on any final form of the Resolution.
I hereby resign from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians and as a Fellow of the AAFP.
I waited to resign after nearly 30-year membership until the last minute before being dropped (for lack of paying my annual dues). There were several reasons for my hesitancy. For one thing, I didn’t want to be an undue influence on other members when they considered whether or not to write that hefty annual check to the Academy. For another, while I will continue to work with the AAFP and the Christian Medical and Dental Association to protect the right to life, marriage, the conscience rights of doctors within the profession of medicine and the specialty of Family Medicine, I do believe that it is important to work to persuade from within the organization. The biggest problem with finally writing the letter was that I was looking for a way to somehow keep my integrity while allowing the Academy to claim to represent me.
However, now that I’ve resigned, please consider sharing my letter with your family doctor. Many of them are unaware of the policies that our professional organizations push on good doctors of today and the students and residents who will be our doctors of tomorrow.
Should all girls “of child bearing age” be able to walk into the corner pharmacy and buy Plan B without ID, age restrictions or parental supervision? I don’t think so!
However, my professional organization, the American Academy of Family Practice, issued a statement this week advocating for just that. Our online newsletter included my comments in an article published today:
On the other hand, family physician Beverly Nuckols, M.D., of New Braunfels, Texas, said she has issues with the Academy statement because it is inconsistent with its own Family Medicine, Scope and Philosophical Statement.
“Family physicians not only treat the patient within the context of her family, we also strive to treat the whole patient — ‘biological, behavioral (and) social,'” Nuckols said. “In this case, the ‘disease’ we are trying to prevent is the high-risk behavior of unprotected sex. Parental involvement is vital to the health of children and is the best prevention for high-risk behavior, including adolescent sexual activity.
“The AAFP normally and correctly advocates parental involvement and intervention to prevent other high-risk activity, such as driving without a license, the use of guns without adult supervision, smoking, or overeating, etc.,” she said. “What is the rationale for treating adolescent sexual activity any differently than we would treat other risky behavior or preventable risk factor?”
Nuckols, who serves as chair of the Christian Medical & Dental Association’s Family Medicine Section, said she also has concerns about OTC Plan B One-Step because there are few controlled, randomized studies that prove levonorgestrel to be medically safe and effective for adolescents at the dosage given.
“The published data on emergency contraception don’t break out the numbers of adolescent girls, but the numbers appear to be low,” she said. “The closest I’ve found are small studies for treatment of menstrual disorders and inherited bleeding disorders by chronic use of oral or intrauterine levonorgestrel, with the youngest age at 14.”
(BTW, The author quoted my written statement, exactly, so any errors are mine. I goofed in identifying myself to the author: Much to my relief, our CMDA Family Medicine Section elected a new Chair and I’m now the Past-Chair. I didn’t realize we had passed the turn-over date. Oh, and “data” really is plural, so “data … don’t” is not terrible grammar, just awkward.)