CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA), the premier national physician organization in the country, voted this week to adopt new policies during the voting session of the AMA’s Annual Meeting.
The policies adopted by the House of Delegates include:
Ending the backlog of sexual assault examination kits
The AMA called on state and federal authorities to process all backlogged and new sexual assault examination kits upon patient consent, in a timely fashion. The kits have played a significant role in identifying and incarcerating perpetrators of violent sexual crimes. Even when a suspect cannot be instantly identified, the information can be uploaded to the FBI’s DNA Index System and assist in the later identification of a criminal.
The AMA also called for additional funding to facilitate the immediate testing of the kits.
“The backlog needs more money, of course, but also needs to be a higher priority. Sexual violence is often committed by serial offenders. Having an up-to-date database is a law enforcement tool right in front of us,” said AMA Trustee Scott Ferguson, M.D.
Advocating for ban on gay panic defense
The AMA will support federal legislation banning the use of the so-called gay/trans (LGBTQ+) defense strategy that uses a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression as an excuse for a defendant’s violent behavior.
Defendants accused of violent crimes have had their sentences reduce and even been acquitted by using the gay panic defense. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders removed the gay panic disorder in 1973 because the American Psychiatric Association recognized that no such condition exists.
“Sexual orientation is the motivator in 17 percent of hate crimes. Courts shouldn’t countenance a defense that offers pseudoscience to a jury,” said AMA Trustee Scott Ferguson, M.D.
Supporting efforts to provide onsite or subsidized childcare for medical students and residents
Recognizing the lack of options available for affordable, accessible, quality childcare in the U.S. and the unique childcare challenges faced by physicians-in-training, the AMA adopted policy calling for onsite and/or subsidized childcare for medical students, residents, and fellows. Many health care workers, including medical students and residents, work outside the standard business hours, yet the number of childcare centers providing care during nonstandard hours is small—with only two percent offering childcare during the evening, six percent offering overnight care, and three percent offering weekend care.
Given the fiscal challenges that medical schools and graduate medical education institutions may face in providing onsite and/or subsidized childcare, the AMA will also work with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Association of American Medical Colleges, and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine to identify barriers to providing onsite care, as well as innovative methods and best practices for implementing onsite or subsidized care that meets the unique needs of medical students, residents, and fellows.
“Many physicians-in-training may become parents during their medical training, a time when their pay is low or non-existent and they’re working highly unconventional hours. We believe providing onsite or subsidized childcare to medical students and residents during their training will help alleviate some of the financial burden they face and offer the best possible solution to their family’s childcare needs,” said AMA President-elect Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D.
Ensuring adequate parental leave for medical students
While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, FMLA does not have protections for students and schools are not required by law to accommodate parental leave. To ensure adequate parental leave for medical students, the adopted new policy encouraging medical schools to incorporate a six-week minimum leave allowance into their parental leave policies. Under the new policy, the AMA will also work with key stakeholders to advocate that anyone involved in providing medical training, such as residency programs, administration, fellowships, away rotations, physician evaluators, and research opportunities, do not discriminate against students who take family or parental leave.
“It is essential that medical students are able to take parental leave during their medical training without fear of penalty or punishment. We urge all medical schools to offer at least six weeks of parental leave to their students,” said AMA Medical Student Board Member Drayton Charles Harvey.