Diverse Coalition Warns that Political Interference in Practice of Medicine is Undermining Patient-Provider Relationship

Leading Medical, Gun Violence Prevention, Women’s Health Groups Cite Arizona and Arkansas Laws as Examples of Problematic Trend of Requiring Health Care Providers to Violate Their Medical Training, Ethics

Members of the Coalition to Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship, a diverse group of medical, health, women’s health, gun violence prevention and other groups, today released an unprecedented statement expressing alarm about the recent trend of state politicians passing laws that interfere in the relationship between patients and their health care providers.

The statement is co-signed by 13 organizations, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and National Physicians Alliance, as well as advocacy groups including the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Partnership for Women & Families. It expresses “serious concern about an increasing number of governmental actions that inappropriately interfere in the relationship between patients and their health care providers by requiring health care professionals to violate their medical training and ethical obligation to their patients.” The signers urge “states to exercise caution and restraint to safeguard this important relationship.”

“With complete disregard to scientific evidence, politicians all over the country are mandating what health care providers, especially obstetrician-gynecologists, can and cannot say to their patients. This interference is incredibly dangerous,” stated Hal Lawrence III, MD, executive vice president and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Physicians in all specialties and patients in all states will be hurt by these laws, if they aren’t already. We must join together and fight to keep open, honest and appropriate communication between patients and physicians. There’s no room for politicians in our exam rooms.”

“Recently, lawmakers in Arizona and Arkansas passed laws that require doctors to tell patients that medication abortion may be ‘reversible,’ which is baseless junk science. Similarly, numerous states have required health care providers to give women false or misleading information about abortion care, and mandated unnecessary tests and delays for this time-sensitive care. Still other states have passed laws that prohibit providers from asking or sharing information about gun safety and environmental hazards. These laws put politicians’ ideology ahead of patient needs, medical evidence and the informed judgment of medical professionals. They are bad medicine and must be rejected,” said National Partnership President Debra L. Ness.

“Doctors have a tremendous influence on the well-being of their patients, and the advice they give should be based on science, not politics,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Medical gag rules and mandates threaten physicians’ ability to provide the best care possible regarding essential public health issues like gun violence or abortion. Laws curtailing or dictating doctors’ speech set a dangerous precedent, and the Law Center is proud to stand alongside dozens of other organizations to fight for physicians’ rights as a member of the Coalition to Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship.”

The Coalition to Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship is co-chaired by the National Partnership and National Physicians Alliance.

The statement is signed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American College of Physicians - Arizona Chapter, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Student Association, American Medical Women’s Association, American Public Health Association, Center for Reproductive Rights, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Institute for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Physicians Alliance, National Women’s Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The principles it recommends all legislators adhere to in order to protect the patient-provider relationship are:

  1. Providers should not be prohibited by law or regulation from discussing with, or asking their patients about, risk factors that evidence shows may negatively impact their health, or from disclosing clinically relevant information to patients.
  2. The information and care provided should be consistent with the best available medical evidence on clinical effectiveness and appropriateness and professional standards of care.
  3. The information and care should be tailored to individual patient circumstances and allow for flexibility as to the most appropriate time, setting and means of delivering information and care, as determined by the provider and patient.
  4. The information and care provided should facilitate shared decision-making between patients and their providers, based on the best medical evidence, the provider’s knowledge and clinical judgment, and patient values, beliefs, and preferences.

The full text of the new statement from members of the Coalition to Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship is here.

About the National Partnership

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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