AMA and Others Support Physician Fight for Autonomy

Medical staff has the right to make patient care decisions free of hospital interference

CHICAGO - February 15, 2013 - The American Medical Association (AMA) and several other physician organizations have filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a court appeal by physicians seeking to re-establish a balance at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center that allows physicians to protect patients' safety and lets administrators run the hospital effectively. This balance was upset when the governing board at the Minnesota hospital unilaterally amended the medical staff’s bylaws and took away the medical staff's right to self-govern.

The brief supports re-establishing the independence of the hospital's medical staff to ensure their right and responsibility to uphold the quality of patient care, without improper interference or control by the hospital’s governing board.

Medical staff leaders filed suit alleging the new bylaws strip physicians of “nearly all rights and responsibilities” and give Avera’s governing board controlling power in processes that require medical staff direction. However, a Minnesota District Court refused to recognize the medical staff’s lawsuit or the contractual nature of the original bylaws.

“The Minnesota District Court made a serious error that gave Avera’s governing board unchecked power over the medical staff,” said AMA President Jeremy A Lazarus. M.D. "Our brief urges the state's court of appeals to reverse this mistake and allow the medical staff to press its genuine case for self-governance. Restoring the medical staff's autonomy will assure an accountable balance between patient care and corporate interests at the hospital.”

The brief was led by the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies, a legal action coalition consisting of the AMA and medical societies from each state plus the District of Columbia. Other organizations that signed on to the AMA brief include the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Minnesota Medical Association.

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Media Contact:
Robert J. Mills
AMA Media Relations
(312) 464-5970
robert.mills@ama-assn.org

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The American Medical Association helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional, public health and health policy issues. The nation’s largest physician organization plays a leading role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit www.ama-assn.org.

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About the American Medical Association (AMA) Since 1847 the American Medical Association has had one mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. Today, the core strategy used to carry out this mission is our concerted effort to help doctors help patients. We do this by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. In 2011 our strategic plan focuses on five areas that encompass the central elements in health system reform: Access to care Quality of care Cost of health care Prevention and wellness Payment models Vist the AMA's 2011 strategic plan at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/strategic-issues.page These topics represent the major areas of emphasis in which the AMA carries out its mission in the current environment. Our proposed actions are not only directed at solving reform issues at the policy level, but also at helping physicians adapt to—and adopt—changes in a productive way. To learn more about how the AMA is moving medicine forward, read our flyer at: http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/about-ama/moving-medicine-forward.pdf.

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