According to the newly amended AMA ethical guidance , “physicians who are not or cannot be immunized have a responsibility to voluntarily take appropriate actions to protect patients, fellow health care workers and others.” This includes refraining from direct patient contact.
The delegates also approved a guidance asserting that physician practices and health care institutions are responsible for developing policies and procedures for responding to pandemics and epidemics. These policies and procedures should outline appropriate protective equipment allocation, staff immunization programs, and infection control practices.
Combating systemic racism
In an effort to reduce racial disparities in healthcare, the AMA House of Delegates adopted new policies recognizing race as a social construct, rather than a biological construct.
“The policies aim to advance data-driven, antiracist concepts challenging the current clinical application of race and its effects on vulnerable patient populations,” an AMA statement said.
The new AMA policies “reflect an understanding of race as a socially constructed category different from ethnicity, genetic ancestry, or biology, and aim to end the misinterpretation of race as a biological category defined by genetic traits or biological differences,” the AMA said.
According to the AMA, the practice of accepting race as a biological construct “exacerbates health disparities and results in detrimental health outcomes for marginalized and minoritized communities.”
Specifically, the AMA said it supports ending the practice of using race as a proxy for biology in medical education, research, and clinical practice. It also encourages medical education programs to recognize the harmful effects of this approach. It recommends that clinicians and researchers focus on genetics and biology, the experience of racism, and social determinants of health when describing risk factors for disease.
“The AMA is dedicated to dismantling racist and discriminatory policies and practices across all of health care, and that includes the way we define race in medicine,” said AMA board member Michael Suk, MD, in its statement. “We believe it is not sufficient for medicine to be nonracist, which is why the AMA is committed to pushing for a shift in thinking from race as a biological risk factor to a deeper understanding of racism as a determinant of health.”
The AMA also plans to partner with physician organizations and other stakeholders “to identify any problematic aspects of medical education that may perpetuate institutional and structural racism.” For example, the AMA will work with other organizations to improve clinical algorithms that incorrectly adjust for race and lead to less-than-optimal care for minority patients.
A version of this article originally appeared on Medscape.com.