Largest US Medical Lobbying Group Shuts Down Resolution to Back Cease-Fire in Gaza

Healthcare workers rally for Palestinian rights and a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza on November 7, 2023 in Indianapolis.

(Photo: @Indy_SURJ/Twitter)

Largest US Medical Lobbying Group Shuts Down Resolution to Back Cease-Fire in Gaza

The AMA has a responsibility to uphold the well-being of healthcare workers and minimize human suffering, and it is clear that these values are not being upheld," said Healthcare Workers for Palestine.

"Shame on the American Medical Association."

That was one American nurse's response to the news on Sunday that the powerful medical lobbying organization had shut down members' call for a public statement that would declare the AMA's support for "a cease-fire in Israel and Palestine in order to protect civilian lives and healthcare personnel."

As the news about the state of Gaza's hospitals grew increasingly dire over the weekend—with premature babies relying on incubators beginning to die due to Israel's blockade of the enclave's electricity and fuel supplies, and hospitals in northern Gaza forced to shut down completely—Dr. Hussein Antar spoke at the AMA's House of Delegates interim meeting on behalf of other medical residents and fellows who support a cease-fire.

Antar said he and other supporters of the resolution strongly backed the statement the AMA made last week calling on "all parties" in the conflict to "minimize the health costs of war on civilian populations" and condemning "the military targeting of healthcare facilities."

"But we believe the largest physician group in the United States can and should do more than that. This issue is too vital for us to evade discussion," said Antar.

Since the finalization of the statement and the meeting, MedPage Todayreported, at least 60 medical workers had been killed by Israel's bombardment, which targeted at least six hospitals in that period.

In recent weeks, doctors and nurses who have refused to leave their posts despite the repeated airstrikes and Israel's ground attacks have resorted to performing Caesarean sections on pregnant women and other major surgeries without anesthesia, have been unable to properly sterilize medical instruments, and have been buying laundry detergent and vinegar to clean wounds due to the lack of supplies and electricity.

Despite the fact that Israel's onslaught has seriously endangered doctors and nurses and left them unable to perform their duties, the AMA's Resolution Committee recommended the statement not be reconsidered and said it did not meet the organization's criteria for speaking out about an issue affecting the healthcare community.

Those criteria, noted a U.S.-based nurse who uses the handle @travelingnurse on TikTok, include "advocacy, ethical considerations, and urgency."

"I reject any notion that calling for a cease-fire in Gaza—the most densely population piece of land on the planet, where half the population is under 15 years old, where the death toll has now reached 12,000 people, where there are tanks firing on hospitals—I reject that that is not advocacy, I reject that that is not urgent, and I reject that that is not an ethical consideration," said the healthcare worker.

Dr. Lisa Bohman Egbert, speaker of the AMA's House of Delegates, reportedly called on Dr. Luis Seija to stop giving his statement in support of the cease-fire resolution, as he reminded those at the meeting that "there are people in the room who have had friends and family killed both on the Israeli and Palestinian sides of this violence."

Former AMA president Dr. Andrew Gurman also opposed the resolution, claiming that since it dealt "with a geopolitical issue," making a formal statement was "in no way the purview of this house"—despite the fact that the AMA spoke out last week to condemn the targeting of hospitals in Gaza.

"There was a coordinated effort at the national meeting to shut the resolution down, with the speaker not allowing delegates their allotted 90 seconds to speak about the resolution," said Healthcare Workers for Palestine. "The largest medical group in the country actively silenced voices of healthcare workers supporting a cease-fire, saying 'it's not relevant to advocacy.' The AMA has a responsibility to uphold the well-being of healthcare workers and minimize human suffering, and it is clear that these values are not being upheld by some of the most influential physicians in the country, nor is the democratic process being respected."

Public health writer Abdullah Shihipar said the lobbying group silenced the discussion on the resolution, which failed to pass in a vote of 136-458, because leaders "know [the AMA's position] is wrong."

Shihipar shared an interview featuring Dr. Hammam Alloh, who worked at al-Shifa Hospital and was killed Saturday in an airstrike. Before he was killed, Alloh had explained to Democracy Now! that he would not abandon his patients to flee to southern Gaza with his family.

"This," said Shihipar, "is who the American medical and public health community refuses to stand with."

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