News Capsules (Winter 2001)

Doctors Expose AMA's Secret Pact with the Federal Government

"Kathryn Serkes, public relations counsel for the AAPS, issued the following statement in response to a letter sent by Sen. Trent Lott to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson calling for an end to the American Medical Association's monopoly on CPT codes that doctors are required to use to bill Medicare and Medicaid:

" 'Sen. Lott deserves everyone's support in his effort to pull the rug out from under the AMA's secret monopoly on these codes. While it is a very complex issue, any doctor will tell you that the AMA's stranglehold on government billing has been a major cause of the fear and intimidation in which doctors are now forced to practice medicine.

" 'Elimination of this AMA cartel will do more to protect patients than any Patients' Bill of Rights law. We only hope that Sen. Lott's motivation is indeed patient protection, not political manipulation to curb the AMA's donations to the Democratic Party, and that he'll see this all the way through.

" 'The AMA is desperately in need of the congressional sunshine that Sen. Lott can focus. A three-judge federal panel in the 9th Circuit has already ruled that the AMA misused its copyright, but getting specifics has been tough.

" 'In 1997, the AMA's president finally admitted to the secret contract when questioned at a meeting by the AAPS executive director. The AMA apparently had never informed its members --- or physicians at large --- about the details of its secret pact. Meeting attendees seemed taken aback --- even more so when the president refused to disclose the details.

" 'Undeterred, AAPS obtained a copy of the secret AMA/HCFA contract (see "AMA's Secret Pact with HCFA" at

" 'We're talking some big bucks here. The AMA admits on its Web site that it makes more money on publishing than from member dues --- to the tune of about $133 million in non-dues revenue, including sales of those expensive CPT code books.

" 'Let's take back medicine from this money-making machine of AMA-generated regulation. While the AMA, in its own words, 'is a successful business entity' medical practice must remain an ethical profession focused on providing quality care to patients --- not extorting multi-million dollar fees to pay six-figure salaries to Association honchos.' "

(, August 9, 2001)

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) --- Civil Defense Urgently Needed

"American troops willingly put themselves in harm's way to protect their families and their homeland. But should they head for Afghanistan when their families are totally unprotected at home? The United States once had a civil defense program...

"Those are the concerns expressed by Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP), a physician organization dedicated since 1983 to promoting homeland defense and prudent preparedness for disasters of all kinds, including war and terrorism.

"In the article 'Civil Defense, the Forgotten Defense,' posted on the DDP website at, DDP president Jane M. Orient, M.D., cites numerous examples of how Americans have been stripped of the rudimentary civil defense protections they once had, and urges the new Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies to take immediate action for civilian protections: 'American buildings contain a lot of space suitable for shelters, but thanks to federal policy it is probably not stocked. It's not just lack of funding...

" 'State emergency planning centers used to have hundreds or thousands of survey meters and Geiger counters to measure radiation, so citizens could be advised when to take shelter and when it was safe to emerge. These instruments were disposed of or given away years ago and not replaced...'

"Dr. Orient lists actions the government could take immediately, at minimal cost: (1) Encourage privately owned facilities that contract with the government to prepare and stock existing space for fallout shelters (or at least repeal any prohibitions); (2) Resume distribution of information on expedient civil defense measures tested at Oak Ridge National Laboratories to state and local emergency workers, emergency broadcast facilities, and interested citizens; (3) Stockpile potassium iodide and directions for use to protect the thyroid gland in the event of fallout; (4) Stockpile unprocessed grain and beans as an emergency food supply in the event that a year's crops are contaminated; (5) Improve methods of detecting chemical and biological agents; stockpile and disperse antibiotics and antidotes; have instructions for Israeli-style sealed rooms ready for dissemination.

"Dr. Orient also urges physicians to take a crash course on diagnosing, treating and reporting possible cases of biological and chemical terrorism. DDP has posted these tools for physicians, as well as the public, on the website at"

(, October 15, 2001)


Bellesiles Ordered to Respond to Critics

"Michael Bellesiles, author of the controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, has been told he must defend the oft-criticized 'research' that was the basis of his book. Bellesiles is currently a historian at Emory University, and the clamor of controversy surrounding his book has reached such a volume that James Melton, Emory's history department chairman, told the Boston Globe Bellesiles must 'defend himself and the integrity of his scholarship immediately.' The book, according to the author, is a culmination of research that indicates that most Americans around the time of our country's formation did not own firearms. This, of course, is contrary to reams of scholarly research showing that America has always been a nation where the possession of firearms by responsible, law-abiding, private citizens has been widespread.

"While this book initially received high praise from gun-ban extremists and the anti-gun media (The New York Times actually gave the book praise before it was ever released), numerous historians and journalists have since raised extensive criticism of Bellesiles's research. Gerald Rosenberg, a visiting professor of law at Northwestern University, told The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel in April, '...[T]he evidence is so overwhelming that it is incumbent upon Bellesiles as a serious scholar to respond. He either has to admit error, or somehow show how his work is right.'

"Strassel's April 5 article mentioned several other critics of Bellesiles, including UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who has pointed to examples of Bellesiles either misquoting sources, or citing sources that do not contain the information the Emory professor claims they contain; Bentley College history professor Joyce Lee Malcolm, author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right; Northwestern professor of law James Lindgren, who has tackled what many reviewers have considered to be the most compelling aspect of Bellesiles research --- his use of probate records (Lindgren came up with starkly different results showing widespread ownership of firearms in early America); and Randolph Roth, an associate history professor at Ohio State University who examined Lindgren's work on probate records and commented that 'it looks as though Mr. Bellesiles work won't be reproducible.'

"According to Strassel, Bellesiles told her that many of his critics are 'ideologically motivated,' but she points out that Rosenberg and Lindgren all told her that they favor gun control. Bellesiles has also revealed that he did not keep a database (rather odd in the age of computers), but kept all his data on paper notes, which he claims were destroyed in a flood.

"Even more recently, Melissa Seckora of National Review called Bellesiles's research 'one of the worst cases of academic irresponsibility in memory.' In an article originally posted to the Internet on September 11, but which can now be found online and in the October 15 issue of National Review, Seckora reveals that Bellesiles's claim of having re-searched San Francisco probate records from the 1840s and 1850s seems to be a complete fabrication. According to Seckora, every source Bellesiles cited for these probate records indicated the records did not exist, as all were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. While we certainly look forward to the detailed defense of his research Bellesiles has been told to produce, it is likely it will simply inspire a new round of questions from historians."

(NRA-ILA Fax Alert, Vol. 8, No. 40, October 5, 2001)


AMA Criticized for Ad Effort

"The American Medical Association is spending a large amount of drug-company money to tell doctors not to accept large gifts from drug companies, in a campaign that critics say smacks of hypocrisy.

"The AMA is contributing about $400,000 to the $1 million effort, but most of the rest comes from payments of $50,000 to $100,000 from nine major drug companies...

" 'It's symbolically endorsing the very behavior that they're trying to caution against,' said Dr. John Lantos, associate director of the University of Chicago's MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.

"At issue are the gifts, ranging from pens and note pads to dinners and trips, that some drug makers shower on doctors. Ethicists say the gifts could encourage doctors to prescribe medications that might not be in patients' best interests.

"AMA policy suggests a limit of about $100 on such gifts and says they should not include things like trips and hotel accommodations. Things like pens and note pads are considered acceptable..."

(Associated Press, August 31, 2001)


This edition of News Capsules was compiled by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel of the AAPS. It appeared in the Medical Sentinel 2001;6(4):111-112 Copyright©2001 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).