WASHINGTON, DC - Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their allies, announced that the American Medical Association (AMA) has passed a resolution calling for full repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. With overwhelming support from its membership and virtually no opposition, even from the uniformed services representatives in attendance, the call for full repeal became official AMA policy today upon passage of the resolution.
“Today, the American Medical Association took a principled stance against a law that clearly has a negative impact on military healthcare, military medical providers, and our troops,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and executive director of Servicemembers United. “ This is yet another nail in the coffin of the flawed and outdated ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, and it should send a strong message to those who continue to blindly claim that this policy works.”
At issue before the AMA was the chilling effect that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has on the provider-patient relationship and the resulting impact on access to quality healthcare for many active duty troops. Military medical providers can and have been compelled to divulge personal information about patients to military commanders, resulting in the widespread perception among troops that medical confidentiality in the military is non-existent. Servicemembers United has documented cases of troops suffering in silence or hesitating to seek treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions out of fear for their careers, as well as cases of troops leaving the military to get proper treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related injuries.
“The provider-patient relationship is sacrosanct in the practice of medicine and in the provision of healthcare,” said Dr. Alan M. Steinman, a retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral and a member of the Servicemembers United Policy Council. “Virtually all physicians can agree that nothing should impede open and honest communication between a patient and his or her doctor. In this way, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” threatens the lives and safety of our troops, and it often puts military health professionals in a moral and ethical dilemma.”
The AMA worked exclusively with Servicemembers United on the resolution for nearly six months, including inviting Servicemembers United’s executive director to the AMA’s interim meeting in Houston this week to brief its LGBT Advisory Committee and to testify before the relevant Reference Committee on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law as it relates to healthcare issues.
A copy of the resolution, as well as more information on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” can be found at www.servicemembersunited.org.
Servicemembers United, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, is the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their allies. Based in Washington, DC, Servicemembers United actively engages in education, advocacy, and lobbying on issues affecting the gay military, veteran, and defense community.