Anti-Trump document draws hundreds of physician signatures

November 7, 2016

Calling a Donald Trump presidency “a threat to the goals of medicine,” more than 600 physicians have signed a statement opposing him and urging others in the medical community to vote against the Republican presidential nominee.

Calling a Donald Trump presidency “a threat to the goals of medicine,” more than 600 physicians have signed a statement opposing him and urging others in the medical community to vote against the Republican presidential nominee.

The statement, which has circulated largely via social media, cites three reasons why a Trump presidency would threaten public health:

·      His proposal to deport more than 10 million undocumented immigrants;

·      His advocacy of discrimination in the form of banning Muslim immigrants and comments about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans; and

·      His support for killing families of terrorists and expanded use of torture

Medical Economics recently spoke with the author, Aaron Stipple, MD, an internist and hospitalist in Boston, Massachusetts.

Medical Economics:What prompted you to write and circulate this document?

Dr. Stupple

Aaron Stupple:  A friend of mine was particularly upset by [Trump’s] discriminatory rhetoric and what that means for our patients and colleagues. He contacted me and asked if anyone was doing anything. He thought there should be some healthcare leadership.

I agreed with him but I thought it wasn’t my job, that someone else should do it. Then I realized Trump had this deportation plan, and I started reflecting on it for what that would mean in a real sense if someone like this was elected. The amount of human suffering and humiliation, as well as emotional harm and death is just on a scale that I think obligates someone to actively get engaged. Certainly, doctors who have a duty to the public good really have an obligation to speak up and make their concerns heard.

We doctors spend a lot of time working very hard for the individual patient in front of us or in the hospital, and that’s wonderful. But we almost do that to the exclusion of advocacy in the public realm, There are lots of doctors like myself who don’t have an outlet; there’s no real structure [for expressing our views.]

Next: Any response from the Trump campaign?

 

So that’s kind of the background: A personal connection to the public good, recognizing this candidate as above and beyond, someone I have so much misgiving about I can’t just keep it to myself, and I can’t just complain to my friends and family. If I really think that a mass deportation is a potential humanitarian crisis, I have to say something about that.

ME:How have you promoted it?

AS: I started with the group that had been collaborating on it. …I proposed this idea to Lachlan Forrow [MD], a pretty well-known bioethicist in the Boston area, and he thought it was a great idea. He talked with a lot of high-level doctors, and a lot of them thought it was a good idea. A lot said they weren’t interested. But even those who thought it was a good idea were not comfortable taking the lead themselves, and they all referenced their relationships with nonprofits, and they couldn’t endorse candidates because it would put their nonprofits at risk.

At that point, the strategy shifted to simply trying to gather enough signatures to become newsworthy, and that was word-of-mouth, e-mailing people, using Facebook and Twitter and all my connections, and just asking people to share with their friends.

ME:Have you gotten any response from the Trump campaign?

AS: No

ME:Any pushback from colleagues, or the medical community?

AS: There’ve been a bunch of people who’ve said this is not a medical issue. And that’s been the major argument-doctors don’t belong in politics or endorsing candidates, and that we’re basically rehashing the Clinton campaign talking points.

I think it’s unfounded, for the reasons I mentioned earlier. You either do or don’t have a duty to the public good. You can’t be Pollyannaish, you can’t be alarmist, you can’t be self-righteous. But you also can’t be silent if you’re genuinely concerned. And you have to decide for yourself if you’re genuinely concerned, And I think this situation easily passes that test.

The phrase I keep recalling is that [physicians are] ‘mandated reporters.’ If you think that an unstable patient’s going to go home and harm his kids, you have to report that. I think the same thing applies on a public scale.