Does It Hurt When I Tell You What to Think?



I thought I was reading a hilarious Onion article the other day that lampooned a group of comically self-obsessed physicians.  I was enjoying the farce—the story had the egomaniacal doctors presuming that their medical education qualified them to discuss anthropogenic global warming—aka “Climate Change”.  They even suggested it would be appropriate to push their Al Gore-esque climate alarmism on their patients—during medical appointments!

But when I realized it wasn’t The Onion after all, I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing or crying.  What I was reading turned out to be an actual press release, from a cadre of activist physicians, The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health. After reading a little further, my feelings turned to disdain.

Among this group’s more outrageous claims was that “more than half the nation’s physicians” were launching their campaign.  In reality, small groups of liberal activists in positions of authority within a few medical societies are responsible.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these same societies’ public policy positions include overtly promoting and campaigning for gun control—with their patients, during medical appointments!

The American Medical Association, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology are all outspoken champions of gun control, and have promoted the ridiculous suggestion that “Gun Violence is a public health crisis”.  The same activists in these groups have now injected themselves and their societies’ memberships into both climate change and gun control politics—topics which their medical training in no way qualifies them to discuss.

While medical school curricula vary slightly across institutions, they all focus on the same basic sciences—anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology—and clinical experiences.  Students spend more than half of their four year program engaged in hands-on training, learning to interview, examine, and treat patients for many diseases and injuries.

There is no place in that intense, rigorous academic marathon for classes on meteorology, geophysics or atmospheric chemistry. There are no courses on safe weapons handling and storage, nor any hands on training with firearms.

Physicians are highly educated about human health and disease, and their knowledge and capabilities are rigorously and repeatedly tested.  We undergo years of specialty training following medical school, before being tested again prior to certification and licensure.  Continuing education is required throughout our careers to stay up to date in our fields.   But none of that makes us any more knowledgeable than the average person about epochal planetary climate variability, personal security, or basic firearm safety.

If these ridiculous media campaigns were simply examples of people shooting off their mouths on topics about which they’re woefully uninformed, it would hardly be noteworthy in the internet age.  Nowadays every narcissistic celebrity and idiot-next-door shouts their ignorance and bias from the digital rooftops.

Leonardo DiCaprio flying around the world in a private jet and pontificating as if his opinion on climate science is relevant is one thing—he’s an actor, and pretends for a living.  No doubt he knows a great deal about his craft.  But heeding him on other subjects is foolish, and the same goes for Amy Schumer’s incessant and often incoherent anti-gun rants.

However, physicians often need to ask and get answers to delicate personal questions.  We are entrusted with safeguarding patients’ privacy, with information they may share with no one else.  That privilege carries tremendous responsibility, and abusing it to serve a political agenda is despicable.

While physicians are welcome to their personal political opinions, those should only be expressed where disagreement and debate can occur on equal footing.  This basic premise motivated the “Docs versus Glocks” legislation, imprudently nullified by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The doctor-patient relationship is special, and exploiting it to promote a political agenda is an abuse of patient trust, not to mention intellectual cowardice.

Whether or not you share the same political beliefs, this sort of betrayal should offend you.  It’s sad, though unsurprising, that the physician groups promoting this practice are not admonished, but rather encouraged, by the fawning mainstream press.

While possibly less than in the days of Marcus Welby, MD, physicians are generally held in high esteem by patients and their families.  Our words, attitudes and advice regarding health and disease, life and death, are important to them.  When we speak from knowledge and experience, the deference people grant us is usually deserved.   Dr. Welby may have been paternalistic, and he frequently injected himself into his patients’ lives.  But through 169 episodes, he only did so to help solve their problems, often putting patients’ needs above his own.  He would be appalled by the actions of today’s AMA, which appears to value politics over patients.


—Tom Vaughan, MD is a neuroradiologist in private practice in Louisville, KY.  He is a shooting enthusiast who believes in individual liberty and personal responsibility.

All DRGO articles by Tom Vaughan, MD.