In a embarrassing display of self congratulatory praise , in this commentary Bob Doherty ,senior vice president of the American College of Physicians office of government affairs and public policy, makes the assertion that internists and particularly the ACP are the "conscience of medicine".
How does he support that claim? First, he cites the advocacy that ACP has provided for universal health care and for other causes..He also quotes from a commentary from Lancet which declared that internists and ACP were the conscience of medicine.Further, he makes the claim that the ACP has always put the patient first even if some aspect of their advocacy might not be in the best interests of internists,while other professional organizations lobby in Washington for their parochial interests. In his view apparently ACP (or at least its leadership) knows what it is best for the public good and selflessly strives to achieve those goals.
Conscience can be defined as the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual or an inner sense impelling one toward right action.
Does Mr. Doherty believe that the ACP has acted in some way or ways that distinguish it from other medical professional groups in regard to this alleged role as medicine's conscience?
What about pediatricians and their professional organization,the American Academy of Pediatricians, (AAP). If advocacy in regard to certain positions for various social issues is one criterion for being medicine's conscience,one could argue that the AAP has "out-advocated" ACP or at least earned a tie.Maybe ACP and AAP could be the co-conscience of medicine.
For example AAP has taken stands on measures to decrease firearms deaths,supported the Affordable Care Act,increased funding for the Children's health Insurance Program (CHIP) to name a few of their efforts.Since its founding AAP has advocated for the "health of all children", so ACP has no monopoly in putting "the patient first" and to claim that it is only internists that put patients first is without foundation and seems more like self serving rhetoric .
The American Psychiatric Association says its mission is in part to promote the highest quality care for individuals. That sounds like they put patients first too. The APA is more modest , however, in that their claim is that APA is the "voice and conscience of modern psychiatry".So maybe ACP should soften its claim and say they are the "conscience of medicine except for psychiatric issues".
In light of the most recent Newsweek revelation regarding executive pay and booking keeping practices and other alleged improprieties at ABIM in regard to its maintenance of certification program (MOC), perhaps ACP could flex its conscience muscles and actually make a comment about ABIM's behavior.
It might also be in order to make a statement regarding ACP's educational products sold to internists that are promoted as helpful for ABIM recertification.There are numbers of internists out there who, rightly or wrongly,suspect there has been a very cozy and cahoots relationship between ABIM and ACP and their foundations with a revolving door type situation regarding the leadership ranks of those not for profit organizations . Surely, the voice of the conscience of medicine should have something to say about that.
Does advocacy for certain solutions to perceived social ills or problems constitute evidence for someone or something acting out of conscience? It might but would it not be more correct to characterize ACP's advocacy for certain solutions as simply expressing views consistent with mainstream progressive thought which is in some if not most instances contrary to mainstream conservative or libertarian thinking.While it may be possible that a majority of internists (I am not aware of a head count) consider themselves progressive, there are doubtlessly many libertarian and conservative internists who find ACP's views on a number of topics not an expression of their conscience.