AMA Takes Aim at Gun Violence

Marcia Frellick

May 31, 2018

CHICAGO — A reduction in gun violence is at the core of several proposals that will be debated at the upcoming American Medical Association (AMA) 2018 Annual Meeting.

"With more than 30,000 American men, women, and children dying from gun violence and firearm-related accidents each year, the time to act is now," AMA President David Barbe, MD, wrote in a commentary published earlier this year.

To that end, delegates will hear resolutions that support a ban on the sale of devices such as high-capacity magazines and the bump stocks that convert a firearm into a armament that acts as a fully automatic weapon.

Other resolutions call for stronger background checks for firearm sales and an increase in the legal age — from 18 to 21 years — at which a person can buy ammunition and firearms.

There is also opposition to firearm concealed-carry reciprocity across states and disapproval of incentives for teachers to carry weapons. Another resolution calls for more physician training so that providers can counsel patients on firearm safety.

Meeting delegates will also debate drug shortages and mental health stigma felt by physicians.

A Matter of National Security

New language is being proposed to update the current policy on drug shortages during natural disasters, such as those experienced in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria hit last fall.

A report submitted by the Council on Science and Public Health supports calls on the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Homeland Security to consider drug shortages an "urgent public health crisis" and a matter of national security. It also urges the agencies to "include vital drug production sites in the critical infrastructure plan," just as they include food, water, and transportation.

"Shortages of basic products such as saline and [small-volume parenteral solutions], and their containers, are significantly impacting the healthcare system by affecting patient care, increasing the potential for drug errors, and influencing the manner in which healthcare teams function," the report states.

Delegates will also consider a report that aims to address the gap in policy on artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.

Policies Lacking on Artificial Intelligence

"The AMA has the capacity to help set priorities for healthcare AI; integrate the perspective of practicing physicians into the design, validation, and implementation of high-quality, clinically valuable healthcare AI; and promote greater understanding of the promise and limitations of AI across the healthcare community," the report states.

The future of AI in healthcare will depend on the education of physicians so that they can trust the algorithms and work effectively with AI systems, according to the report.

A resolution will propose that the AMA encourage medical schools to increase students' exposure to emerging technologies, in particular those related to robotics and AI.

Physician burnout rates continue to rise in all areas of medicine. In the 2018 Medscape National Physician Burnout & Depression Report, 42% of respondents said they were burned out, and 15% reported symptoms of depression.

In some states, medical licensing boards still ask physicians a wide-ranging series of questions about current or previous diagnoses of mental health conditions.

Mental Health Questions Keep Physicians From Seeking Help

Disclosure of physical or mental health conditions should only be required when a physician's current condition would affect his or her ability to competently and ethically practice medicine, or when the physician is a danger to the public, according to a proposed report from the AMA Council on Medical Education.

In a recent survey, nearly 40% of physicians said they would be reluctant to seek treatment of a mental health problem because of concern that it could jeopardize their license, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Follow Medscape on Twitter @Medscape and Marcia Frellick @mfrellick

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