LGBT Contingent Hopes to Sway AMA on Gun Violence

JUNE 13, 2016
Gale Scott
The June 12 assault-gun massacre of 49 people at an Orlando, FL nightclub is having repercussions at the American Medical Association.

On Wednesday, the delegates at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago, IL, will vote on a resolution spearheaded by members of its Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Advisory Committee.

The measure calls on the AMA to “immediately make a public statement that gun violence represents a public health crisis which requires a comprehensive public health response and solution” and that the AMA “actively lobby Congress to lift the gun-violence research ban.”

The AMA’s President Steve Stack, MD, (Photo above left) also issued a statement today on the Orlando murders, saying in part, that “The AMA and physicians across America stand ready to not only treat the sick, but to find solutions to prevent future gun violence.”

When a vote was taken today to add the late-breaking resolution to the AMA’s calendar tomorrow, there were already signs the measure would be controversial.

A delegate rose to protest that guns were not to blame for the Orlando violence, rather that it was one individual’s hatred.

Two LGBT advocates who spoke later at the meeting, asking for the delegates'  support in the form of contributions to an AMA Foundation fund to honor the Orlando victims, said they knew something about being the target of rage.

“The moment I discovered I was gay I knew I would face discrimination and hatred,” said Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, an AMA delegate and Vanderbilt University Medical School associate professor of anesthesiology, surgery, biomedical informatics and health policy. “My mother’s first thought when she found out was overwhelming fear that someone would hurt me because I was different,” Ehrenfeld added.

He urged the delegates to go beyond their sacred oath to “do no harm” but to see that everyone is treated with respect and dignity. The fund, under the auspices of the AMA Foundation is raising money for graduate medical education fellowships for LGBT physicians.
 
Ehrenfeld and fellow delegate Josh Cohen, MD, announced that they would match any contributions up to $15,000 made to the LGBT fund .

The delegates gave the two doctors a standing ovation.

Brian Hurley, MD, a Los Angeles psychiatrist and AMA delegate representing the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association also a supporter of the resolution, was interviewed after the session.
He said he hopes that the horror of what happened in Orlando would motivate the delegates to support the resolution denouncing gun violence as a threat to public health.

The attack victims were mostly gay black and Latino men. But that's not the whole point, Hurley said.

“I think this horrific event shows a random act of violence can happen anywhere,” he said, “we are encouraging the AMA to oppose gun violence.”

The AMA has long been divided on the issue of gun control and many members continue to defend their own choice to own firearms.

Last year an online MD Magazine survey of physicians found that more than half of 1,700 physicians who responded said they owned guns.

In the AMA resolution to come up for a vote June 14, “Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis” the sponsors note that in only the first six months of this year, 23,000 incidents of gun violence have led to nearly 6,000 deaths.

In his statement, Stack expressed his dismay over the Orlando killings and offered sympathy.

“As the nation’s healers, we are shocked and saddened by the horrific, senseless murders in Orlando and a brazen, targeted attack on LGBTQ Americans,” Stack said, adding “We offer our deepest condolences to those who lost friends and loved ones, and we extend our hopes for recovery to the men and women still fighting for their lives.”

Stack continued, “With these newest shocking images of gun violence seared in our collective conscience, we know these wounds – physical and mental – will take time to heal.”

Seven physician organizations have already called for policies to reduce gun violence .

That includes repealing an amendment to the bill that funds Health and Human Services saying that its agencies, including the US Centers for Disease Control, are not allowed to use federal money to conduct research that would "advocate or promote gun control."  The amendment was originally passed in 1996 and has remained in each subsequent funding bill. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mistated Jesse Ehrenfeld's first name. 

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