Organized Medicine Takes on Climate Change, but Not All Docs Agree

John Watson


April 27, 2017

Policies Discomfort Some

Although calls for the medical establishment to become more active in climate change are increasingly common, it remains unclear how receptive physicians actually are to playing such a role. A Medscape poll conducted in the wake of the ACP's 2016 policy paper found that nearly half of respondents disagreed that physicians should advocate for measures to reverse the effects of climate change.

In recent weeks, the ACP steered back into the climate-change debate when it issued a press release protesting President Trump's rollback of existing Environmental Protection Agency regulations combating pollution.[13]

For Dr Huddle, who has written extensively on physicians' medical obligations to patients and society, it was the latest example of the organization offering blanket declarations about environmental policies that encompass more than just health and instead touch upon nearly every aspect of our economy.

"Lack of pollution is a public good, and there's no question that if we wish to control it, then regulation at the collective level is going to be necessary," he says. "But we as physicians have no authority, expertise, or standing of any kind to tell society that a given trade-off between population health and all of the other goods that are going to be sacrificed on its behalf is the right trade-off."

For others, the major point of disagreement is simple unease at being asked to deliberate on scientific areas beyond their training.

"I have enough trouble explaining to patients about the importance of controlling their cholesterol, what Lyme disease is, and about vaccines, and these are things I know about," says Daniel S. Berman, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. "To start discussing things that I don't know about is not something I'm comfortable doing. And I don't think the general physician is knowledgeable enough in his education about the subject to make that a part of the discussion with patients."


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