American Medical Association

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American Medical Association

The American Medical Association (AMA) is a federation of state and territorial medical associations. The AMA seeks to promote the art and science of medicine, the medical profession, and the betterment of public health. Its purposes include obtaining, synthesizing, integrating, and disseminating information about health and medical practice; setting standards for medical ethics, practice, and education; and being an influential advocate for physicians and their patients.

The AMA was founded in 1847. At its organizing convention, the AMA adopted the first code of ethics in the United States, a detailed document that addressed the obligations of physicians to patients and to each other and the duties of the profession to the public at large. The delegates also adopted the first national standards for medical education through a resolution establishing prerequisites for the study of medicine. Since that time, the AMA has grown into a large organization, with great influence over issues involving health care and medicine. Its headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois.

The AMA speaks out on issues important to the medical community. AMA policy on such issues is decided through a democratic process, at the center of which is the AMA House of Delegates. The house is comprised of physician delegates from every state, the national medical specialty societies, the Surgeon General of the United States, and sections representing organized medical staffs, young physicians, resident physicians, medical students, and medical schools.

Before the opening of the House of Delegates, which meets twice a year, individual committees consider resolutions and reports in hearings open to all AMA members. Each committee prepares recommendations for the delegates. The house then votes on these recommendations, deciding the AMA's formal position and future action on an issue.

The AMA has been active in numerous healthcare initiatives that affect the U.S. populace as a whole. In the 1990s the AMA launched a campaign against family violence and violence in schools and called on tobacco companies to refrain from engaging in advertising practices that target children. The AMA also launched a national campaign against so-called "drive through" baby deliveries that ended with the passing of legislation requiring insurance companies to provide appropriate hospitalization and maternity stays. In 2000 the AMA announced the first stage of its health literacy campaign that was aimed at increasing patient comprehension of basic healthcare communications such as prescription instructions and insurance forms. The AMA also began an initiative to reduce under-age drinking.

The AMA opposed the creation of Medicare in the 1960s and in the early 2000s has remained opposed to national healthcare insurance. It has sought, however, to extend access to the health-care system and to contain its costs while improving its quality. The AMA has maintained the position that the problems of rising health-care costs are due to the costs of Medical Malpractice suits and has vigorously supported medical liability reform legislation.

The AMA is the world's largest publisher of scientific medical information. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is printed in 12 languages and reaches physicians in 42 countries worldwide, making it the world's most widely read medical journal. The AMA also publishes nine monthly medical specialty journals as well as a newspaper of social and economic health news, American Medical News.

Further readings

American Medical Association. Available online at <> (accessed May 30, 2003).

Rosenberg, Charles E. 1989. In the Care of Strangers: The Rise of America's Hospital System. New York: Basic Books.

Starr, Paul. 1984. Social Transformation of American Medicine. New York: Basic Books.


Health Care Law; Medicare.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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