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Conservative Medicine

The ConWeb promotes a group of physicians and surgeons whose political interests dovetail nicely with theirs.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/29/2005

WorldNetDaily made a big deal in a March 13 story on a report in something called the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons claiming that "the increasing number of illegal aliens coming into the United States is forcing the closure of hospitals, spreading previously vanquished diseases and threatening to destroy America's prized health-care system."

The report suggested several Draconian remedies for this alleged problem, none of which have a thing to do with medicine, as one might expect from a journal that has "physicians and surgeons" in its name. Among them: "Closing America's borders with fences, high-tech security devices and troops" and "Punishing the aiding and abetting of illegal aliens as a crime."

It makes one wonder what kind of medical journal this is. The answer to that appears to be: Not much of one.

The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons seems to be little more than a conservative publication gussied up with a medical spin. A look at the references in the illegal-alien report, written by Madeleine Pelner Cosman -- a "medical lawyer" whose previous claim to fame appears to be a book on medieval cooking but who has also written an article for a group called Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership -- is chock full of hardline conservative cites, including books by Michelle Malkin and former WND writer (and Slantie winner) Jon Dougherty and articles by Phyllis Schlafly and Tom DeWeese.

The lineup of articles for the edition of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons in which Cosman's article appears raises more flags. One article is by Andrew Schlafly, who is promoting the idea of a link between abortion and breast cancer, another by Bruce Schlafly. Does that name sound familiar? Yup -- Andrew and Bruce are the sons of Phyllis Schlafly, the longtime conservative activist. The latest book by Ann Coulter is also reviewed, which claims that "Liberalism (socialism), one of the most disastrous sets of ideas ever conceived, is at war with civilization." Makes one wonder about the peer review the journal claims to have.

In fact, the journal appears to have a highly malleable opinion of peer review, approving of it only when it suits its purposes. It sells a video that attacks what it calls "sham peer review" targeted at what it calls "disruptive doctors" (whose characteristics include "highly competent," "independent thinker" and "politically incorrect").

In 2003, the journal changed its name from the Medical Sentinel. The change was made, according to a press release, because it "more accurately represents the organization as a non-partisan professional association." (Certainly it's no coincidence that the new sounds a lot more highfalutin in the manner of the Journal of the American Medical Association.) Problem is, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), publisher of the journal, appears to be quite partisan.

AAPS members include Ron Paul, the libertarian Texas congressman, and Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert J. Cihak, who write the "Medicine Men" column for NewsMax (and used to write it for WorldNetDaily). Another NewsMax writer, Miguel A. Faria Jr., is a former editor of the journal. Andrew Schlafly, mentioned above, is AAPS' general counsel.

AAPS has done its share of Clinton-bashing. It was one of the groups that sued to force the release the names of those who advised Hillary Clinton's health care task force, and in 2003, it filed an amicus brief pressing for the public release of photos of former Clinton deputy counsel Vincent Foster taken following his 1993 suicide, something WND and NewsMax have agitated for to prove their theory that Foster was murdered, presumably at the direction of the Clintons, despite the fact that no less an a authority than conservative independent counsel Kenneth Starr ruled the death a suicide. (NewsMax's Christopher Ruddy, if you'll recall, wrote a conspiracy-theory book about Foster that even Ann Coulter dismissed as a "conservative hoax book.") An AAPS article argues no medical reason for doing so, just a vague statement that "[g]overnment needs to be held accountable."

Not surprisingly, with such support of conservative causes, AAPS has received much uncritical attention from the ConWeb. A December 2000 WorldNetDaily profile lovingly describes it as "supporting free-market principles in the world of health care." WND editor Joseph Farah said of the group in October 2000: "These people understand what government intrusion has meant to health care in this country."

NewsMax even offered its own endorsement of AAPS in a November 2004 article, after the American Medical Association suggested pulling the medical license of Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher for signing the execution warrant of a convicted murderer: "We suggest Kentucky and other states dump any association with AMA and consult with the far more sensible Association of American Physicians and Surgeons."

Beating up on the AMA is a favorite AAPS pastime. In a series of May 2001 NewsMax essays, Faria bashed the AMA for "joining the gun prohibitionist movement," allegedly skewing the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for supporting "the emotionalism, rhetoric, and political correctness (and particularly so with fashionable and trendy issues) championed by the mass media" (as if the AAPS journal's anti-immigrant rant didn't follow its own conservative correctness), and opposing conservatives' idea of tort reform.

AAPS hewed to the conservative line in the Terri Schiavo case, unquestioningly promoting "allegations of spousal abuse that may have caused Terri's initial injury," linking to the deposition of William Hammesfahr -- he of the bogus Nobel Prize nomination -- and filing two amicus briefs on Terri Schiavo's behalf.

An AAPS newsletter titled "Why Terri Schiavo Had to Die" quotes a former AAPS president claiming that the Schiavo case "took on the trappings of the ‘final decision’ in the Roman Colosseum in the days of the gladiators":

When one of the gladiators was disarmed, he knelt in front of the victor, who looked to the crowd and the royal elite for their decision: thumbs up or thumbs down. The American public, according to television polls that described her condition inaccurately, was 80% in favor of killing Terri. The judicial elite, playing to the fervor of the crowd, showed thumbs down.

AAPS filed an amicus brief supporting Rush Limbaugh in his fight to keep his medical records private amid charges of doctor-shopping to obtain pain medication, claiming that the state of Florida's seizure of the records was "a violation of state law and an effort at 'Big Brother scrutiny' that will chill doctor-patient relations for all Floridians."

Also on the pain-pill front, AAPS has been an excuse-maker for William Hurwitz, a Virginia doctor specializing in chronic pain relief recently sentenced to 25 years in prison on drug-trafficking charges, essentially taking the view that relieving pain at all costs is a higher goal than the ethical and addictive implications of handing out OxyContin and morphine like candy. AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient wrote in a January commentary reprinted by United Press International and NewsMax:

Hurwitz was accused of being responsible for an epidemic of drug abuse in Virginia and many other states. Now that he's been shackled and carted off to prison, possibly for life, prosecutors may be popping champagne corks and preparing new indictments.

The effect on the illegal prescription-drug traffic in Virginia because he has been convicted will be precisely zilch.

Then again, a couple people might also still be alive. But Orient fails to point out examples of Hurwitz's negligence, such as a patient dying after he prescribed morphine to her in doses 40 times higher than anything she had previously received, other prescriptions for as much as 1,600 pain pills a day, or prosecutors’ claims that Hurwitz knowingly turned a blind eye to patients who were obvious drug addicts and drug dealers and that his waiting room was at times filled with stoned, sleeping patients with track marks on their arms from drug abuse.

That kind of selective memory, like its selective support of peer review, seems to be a membership requirement for being in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. It's a trait that sure makes AAPS fit in well with the ConWeb.

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