Members of the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates adopted a new policy aimed at addressing disinformation during the association’s interim meeting on Monday.
Kavita Arora, MD, a delegate for the AMA’s Young Physicans Section, who had proposed the policy, said during a discussion online on Saturday that while the AMA had an existing policy focused on the dissemination of accurate medical information to the public, the association lacked a policy to address disinformation — i.e., “information that is willfully inaccurate,” she said.
The new resolutions called for the AMA to: first, take aim at disinformation in all types of media; and second, focus inward and tackle disinformation promoted by members of the medical community.
“[W]hen physicians … and other medical professionals join in this disinformation, the effects can seriously undermine the public health efforts of the whole medical community,” Arora said.
Richard Pan, MD, an alternate delegate from California, supported both resolutions while also suggesting an amendment to specifically address media manipulation and social media as drivers of disinformation.
Pan noted that even before COVID, vaccine misinformation was rampant.
For example, in California, the percentage of children who weren’t receiving vaccines upon entering school had been “consistent for decades” at around 0.5%, he said. Then in the late 1990s, those numbers started to increase, around the time the discredited physician Andrew Wakefield, MBBS, published a false report in The Lancet linking vaccines to autism. And then the percentage of unvaccinated children spiked again in the mid-2000s, with the invention of Facebook and other social media.
“So, I think we really do need to look at the role of social media in amplifying those who want to push out disinformation,” Pan said.
Humayun Chaudhry, DO, president and CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), expressed support for the resolution and highlighted the FSMB’s own efforts to combat disinformation, including a statement released in July affirming that sharing disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and other efforts to reduce transmission “represent[s] a breach of professional responsibility and could result in disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of a medical license.”