To most Americans, the concept of "nonprofit" goes hand-in-hand with trust. If a person or an agency isn't driven by money, they seem more likely to be trustworthy and unbiased. They should have the public's best interests at heart, right?
The American Medical Association (AMA) is a nonprofit agency whose mission is "to be an essential part of the professional life of every physician and an essential force for progress in improving the nation's health," according to the AMA's website. It makes you wonder, then, why the AMA gladly accepted huge sums of advertising fees from tobacco companies who advertised heavily in its flagship journal, JAMA, throughout the 20th century.
The AMA claims to support "progress," but history shows that the AMA has worked diligently to block much in the way of real progress in order to control medicine and shut out competition. Consider chiropractic medicine, which is categorized as an "alternative" treatment by most Americans. It involves healing the human body through adjusting the spinal column and other musculoskeletal structures in the body. More than 60,000 chiropractors are practicing in the United States today, and 10,000 students are studying to become doctors of chiropractic medicine, or DCs. It is a legitimate medical practice that often solves medical problems conventional medicine can't.
As an agency that proclaims itself to be concerned with improving the nation's health, the AMA has a duty to accept the field of chiropractic medicine as having proven medicinal value. But history shows just the opposite. Until recently, the AMA viewed chiropractors as competition and tried to destroy the practice of chiropractic medicine in its entirety. In When Healing Becomes and Crime, Kenny Ausubel writes, "For over 12 years and with the full knowledge and support of their executive officers, the AMA paid the salaries and expenses for a team of more than a dozen medical doctors, lawyers and support staff for the expressed purpose of conspiring (overtly and covertly) with others in medicine to first contain, and eventually, destroy the profession of chiropractic in the United States and elsewhere."
This was not speculation. The actions taken by the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th circuit support Ausubel's accusation. In 1990, chiropractic doctors Chester A. Wilk, James W. Bryden, Patricia B. Arthur and Michael D. Pedigo won a landmark antitrust lawsuit against the AMA. The court ruled that the AMA had violated the Sherman Act by "conducting an illegal boycott in restraint of the trade directed at chiropractors generally, and at the four plaintiffs in particular." This 1990 verdict against the AMA followed three other antitrust cases against the association in 1978, 1980 and 1986, all of which were settled.
The fact that the AMA tried to eliminate the profession of chiropractic is fairly well known in the medical community. But there are other skeletons in the AMA's closet that aren't as well known. Have you ever heard of Morris Fishbein? The University of Chicago's Center for History of Science and Medicine is named after him. He was editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) from 1924-1949. Oh, and he was a racketeer, too.
Fishbein apparently operated the AMA for the sole purpose of dominating medicine and discrediting anything he could not control. He also masterminded a scam where he determined what products were fit to carry the AMA's "seal of acceptance" and then accepted money from the manufacturers of those products in exchange for permission to use the AMA seal.
But in reality, the association had no facilities in which to conduct tests of foods or drugs to evaluate their so-called "fitness." Gaining the seal was merely a matter of paying Fishbein shady advertising fees to feature the products in AMA publications. Those fees were in fact "protection" fees paid to keep AMA membership. As editor of JAMA, Fishbein had full control over what information reached the public and what did not.
Thanks to Fishbein, you most likely haven't heard of the Rife Beam Ray. It is a holistic treatment for cancer and infectious diseases. Fishbein single-handedly stifled its research when he learned of the technology. "Sadly, the research was suppressed by medical authorities under the covert direction of Morris Fishbein … who sought to buy into and control the use of the Rife Beam Ray," writes Richard Gerber, author of Vibrational Medicine. "Fishbein (who was later convicted of racketeering charges) was spurned by Rife [creator of Beam Ray treatment] when he attempted to buy into his company. In response, Fishbein decided that if he could not control the therapy, he would suppress it."
Although Fishbein's legacy is tainted with corruption and his misuse of an agency the public trusts, he is remembered by many as the AMA's spokesman for medical orthodoxy, which advocates sticking to what is commonly accepted, customary or traditional.
Take the case of Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in Dallas, which was the world's largest private cancer center in the 1950s. Harry Hoxsey, the clinic's founder, was a self-taught healer who treated cancer patients with herbal folk remedies that proved amazingly effective.
"A Dallas judge ruled in federal court that Hoxsey's therapy was 'comparable to surgery, radium and x-ray in its effectiveness, without the destructive side effects of those treatments'," writes Dr. John Heinerman in Natural Pet Cures. "[Hoxsey] faced unrelenting opposition and harassment from a hostile medical establishment. [But] even his archenemies, the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Administration, admitted that his treatment could cure some forms of cancer." Despite the courts' approval of Hoxsey's treatment, the Dallas clinic was shut down in the 1950s at the end of the McCarthy Era. "The AMA, NCI (National Cancer Institute), and FDA organized a 'conspiracy' to 'suppress' a fair, unbiased assessment of Hoxsey's methods, according to a 1953 report to Congress," writes Heinerman.
But that was all in the 50s. Surely the AMA has improved with time, right? Perhaps not. According to a 1998 article in The New York Times, the AMA paid Sunbeam Corp. $9.9 million to avoid a breach-of-contract trial with the company after pulling out of a five-year, multi-million-dollar endorsement deal. The AMA would have made millions of dollars in royalties by endorsing Sunbeam's blood pressure monitors, humidifiers and other products, but the association backed out of the deal after being criticized because it had no plans to test the products. The AMA had basically made a profit-making deal to endorse products they had no plans of testing beforehand. The AMA only pulled out once the public got wind of the deal.
Does this situation sound familiar? It sounds a bit Fishbein-esque; although Fishbein's "seal of acceptance" program was abandoned in 1955 after a lawsuit was brought against the AMA. It was settled out of court – much like the Sunbeam suit.
After the settlement with Sunbeam, the AMA said it was "now fully focused on its historic mission to serve America's patients and the quality of American medicine." What, then, had been its focus before the Sunbeam settlement? Was it making money? Was it controlling what medical information is "fit" to reach the American public?
Despite the fact that the AMA is stated to be a nonprofit association, it nevertheless has a troublesome history of focusing on money and control. Even its longtime campaign against chiropractic medicine appears grounded in money-making motives, since the association was attempting to eliminate orthodox medicine's "competition."
Today, the AMA boasts that its core purpose is "to promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health." The AMA further claims "only the AMA has the national voice, the reputation and the stature to be a strong advocate for physicians and their patients."
Reputation? For those inclined to place trust in the "reputation" and "stature" of the AMA, just take a look at the association's history. In doing so, you will find an organization operated with questionable ethics.
Even today, the AMA continues to make decisions obviously designed to protect organized medicine, not patients. For example, the AMA is right now engaged in the following actions:
The experts speak on the AMA and Fishbein
Judge Getzendanner ruled, "I
conclude that an injunction is necessary in this case. There are lingering
effects of this conspiracy; the AMA has never acknowledged the lawlessness of
its past conduct and in fact to this day maintains that it has always been in
compliance with the antitrust laws." The AMA was forced to circulate the
contrite Order of Injunction through medical journals, hospitals,
and many other outlets, and to cease and desist from obstructing the
professional rights of the chiropractic profession. The conviction marked the
third time in the century that the AMA was found guilty of antitrust violations
for conspiracy and restraint of trade. The medical association was first
convicted in 1937 under Dr. Fishbein for trying to destroy an autonomous
doctors' group applying cost-cutting health delivery and insurance in
Washington, D.C. It was again found guilty in 1982 by the Federal Trade
Commission—a decision upheld by the Supreme Court, just as the
earlier conviction was. This time the verdict confirmed the AMA's decades-long,
systematic violation of antitrust statutes.
Cigarette manufacturer Philip
Morris, the Journal's biggest single advertiser, also ran into some
problems. Blitzing the AMA Journal and thirty-one state and regional medical
journals, the start-up tobacco company was eager to publicize its innovative use
of diethylene glycol as a hygroscopic agent (to retain moisture), in place of
the glycerin used by other manufacturers. Philip Morris pegged its campaign on
hyping the breakthrough that its cigarettes were consequently
"less irritating to the throat." When the corporation approached the Journal
with its ads, Dr. Fishbein courteously advised it how to go about conducting
acceptable scientific testing to validate its unsubstantiated claims and thereby
qualify. The cigarette manufacturer was eager to link its product with health
benefits, and Dr. Fishbein saw a vast new opportunity for revenues from
nonmedical products, despite the fact that by this time in the 1930s medical
journals were already publishing studies associating smoking with lung cancer.
The company completed its testing at the Columbia University College of
Physicians and Surgeons with findings that the cigarettes with diethylene glycol
caused three times less swelling than other brands. The company used these
studies to launch its medical ad campaign, while supplying free smokes to
doctors. One Journal ad read, "Patients with coughs were instructed to change to
Philip Morris cigarettes. In three out of four cases, the coughs disappeared
completely. When these patients changed back to cigarettes made by the ordinary
method of manufacture, coughs had returned in one third of the cases. This
Philip Morris superiority is due to the employment of diethylene glycol."
The AMA was also composed almost entirely of male doctors and there were many
swipes at women in Fishbein's writing. It is interesting from a sociological
point of view that nutrition (see related
ebook on nutrition) and herbalism were opposed, in part, because they
were associated with women. For example, Fishbein considered Eclecticism "the
apotheosis of the old grandmother and witch-doctor systems of treatment." It
arose out of "the medical practice of an old-woman herb doctor." Herbal
remedies, built up over decades of careful observation, were mockingly derided
as "veritable vegetable soups". Fishbein considered anything traditional in
medicine to be abhorrent. He saw the botanical drugs of the late 19th century as
"almost a replica of the herbals of the 17th and 18th century Europe." ...Of
course, the vast majority of phytochemicals now known to reside in plants and
herbs (many with unique physiological effects) were undreamed of in Fishbein's
day. To put it colloquially, he was simply blowing smoke. While the AMA was
successful in eliminating most competition, Fishbein became concerned, and then
obsessed, by "the worst cancer quack of the century," Harry Hoxsey.
One of the landmark days in the recent history of alternative medicine in the
U.S. was August 27, 1987. On that day, District Judge Susan Getzendanner found
the American Medical Association (AMA) and fourteen associated parties guilty of
waging a conspiracy against chiropractors to contain and eliminate them
entirely, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust law. …the fourteen litigators
probably cost AMA at least $15 million.
Fishbein's early success combating quackery revealed to him a gold
mine of limitless possibilities. In rapid-fire succession he cranked out three
books: Fads and Quackery, Medical Follies, and The New Medical Follies. "As one
reads the rolls of fakirs down through the ages," Fishbein gleefully penned,
"one becomes almost convinced of the doctrine of transmigration of souls." Dr.
Fishbein also utilized the "Devil theory of history," as one observer put it,
exemplified by his quackdown. In Medical Follies, he dubbed the profession of
chiropractic a "malignant tumor" whose theory was "so simple that even
farm-hands can grasp it. It has been said that osteopathy is essentially a
method of entering the practice of medicine by the back door. Chiropractic, by
contrast, is an attempt to arrive through the cellar. The man who applies at the
back door at least makes himself presentable. The one who comes through the
cellar is besmirched with dust and grime; he carries a crowbar and he may wear a
mask." Under Dr. Fishbein's direction, the AMA Bureau of Investigation's quack
files swelled to a prodigious 300,000 names.
...Even the American Medical Association (AMA) was complicit in suppressing
results of tobacco research. In 1964, the Surgeon General's report condemned
smoking, however the AMA refused to endorse it. …
…. By the 1950s, the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in Dallas was the world's largest
private cancer center, -with branches in seventeen states. Born in Illinois, the
charismatic practitioner of herbal folk medicine faced unrelenting opposition
and harassment from a hostile medical establishment. Nevertheless, two federal
courts upheld the 'therapeutic value' of Hoxsey's internal tonic. Even his
archenemies, the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug
Administration, admitted that his treatment could cure some forms of cancer. A
Dallas judge ruled in federal court that Hoxsey's therapy was 'comparable to
surgery, radium, and x-ray' in its effectiveness, without the destructive side
effects of those treatments.' But in the 1950s, at the tail end of the McCarthy
era, Hoxsey's clinics were shut down. The AMA, NCI [National Cancer Institute],
and FDA organized a 'conspiracy' to 'suppress' a fair, unbiased assessment of
Hoxsey's methods, according to a 1953 federal report to Congress."
The campaign was wildly successful and established Philip Morris as a major
tobacco player, until, in 1937, seventy-two people died as a result of using a
drug called Sulfanalamide Massengill. With help from the AMA itself, the toxic
agent was determined to be diethylene glycol. Dr. Fishbein hit the ground
backpedaling. He defended his advertiser in an editorial by saying "There is no
evidence that the ordinary use of diethylene glycol in industry, or as an
ingredient in the manufacture of cigarettes, is harmful." The company was so
grateful that it offered him a retainer for his services, which he refused,
tipping his editor's public health hat. Other cigarette manufacturers quickly
followed suit in their entry into the medical market using physician
testimonials. More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette was the
slogan at Camel's exhibit at the 1947 AMA convention. Only in the 1950s, when
overwhelming evidence of the causation of lung cancer by smoking reached the
public, did the Journal stop accepting tobacco ads, though Dr. Fishbein was by
then serving as a paid consultant to the Lorillard tobacco company. Through its
Members' Retirement Fund, the AMA continued to own tobacco stock in the seven
figures until the mid-1980s. Numerous physicians complained of other
high-pressure tactics from Chicago. Dr. George Starr White, a respected
physician who lectured extensively to doctors and reputedly had the largest
private practice in the country, described how two doctors from AMA headquarters
approached him with a proposition.
The AMA could not survive on membership dues alone, and without the income
secured by him, the Association would undoubtedly flounder. The key to financial
solvency for the organization has been its monthly publication, the AMA Journal.
It was begun in 1883 by Dr. Simmons as a last-ditch effort to save the infant
association from bankruptcy.
Its first press run was 3,500 copies and sold at a subscription rate of five
dollars per year. But it was anticipated that the bulk of the revenue would be
derived from advertisers. By
1973, under the tight control of Managing Editor Dr. Morris Fishbein, it had a
print run of almost 200,000 copies each month and had extended its publication
list to include twelve separate journals including the layman's monthly, Today's
Health. Altogether the AMA now derives over ten million dollars per year in
advertising, which is almost half of the Association's total income. Who
advertises in the AMA Journal and related publications? The lion's share is
derived from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association whose members make up
ninety-five percent of the American drug industry.
The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) is widely considered the
unofficial propaganda arm of the American Medical Association. After a federal
court ruling that found the AMA and other medical organizations had conspired to
disseminate misinformation about chiropractic in an attempt to destroy its
"competition," the NCAHF became the front man for the attack.
When Dr. Fishbein took the stand under cross-examination, the digging done by
Hoxsey's lawyers paid off. Under oath, Dr. Fishbein made shocking admissions. He
failed anatomy in medical school. He never completed his internship before going
to work at the Journal. He never practiced a day of medicine or treated a single
patient in his entire career. Dr. Fishbein was sweating profusely by the time
he left the stand. His definition of a quack as "one who pretends to medical
skill he does not possess" now reflected back in an unseemly mirror.
One may ask why no one has heard of the Rife Beam Ray if it had such a high
success rate in treating cancer and infectious diseases. Sadly, the research was
suppressed by medical authorities under the covert direction of Morris Fishbein,
a powerful editor of JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) who
sought to buy into and control the use of the Rife Beam Ray. Fishbein (who was
later convicted of racketeering charges) was spurned by Rife when he attempted
to buy into his company. In response, Fishbein decided that if he could not
control the therapy, he would suppress it.
… The American Medical Association had just been convicted in federal court
of a "conspiracy to destroy and eliminate" the chiropractic profession." The
court judgment was unequivocal. "For over twelve years and with the full
knowledge and support of their executive officers, the AMA paid the salaries and
expenses for a team of more than a dozen medical doctors, lawyers, and support
staff for the expressed purpose of conspiring (overtly and covertly) with others
in medicine to first contain, and eventually, destroy the profession of
chiropractic in the United States and elsewhere." Also convicted with the AMA
were the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Radiologists.
Historically, this was a period in which the AMA had recently established its
hegemony over American medicine. It was headed by Morris Fishbein, a pugnacious
physician who was to make himself infamous in the eyes of many advocates of
unconventional cancer therapies for his attacks on Gerson, Hoxsey, and other
pioneers of unconventional therapies. It is no surprise to me that Fishbein,
faced with congressional hearings inimical to conventional cancer treatment and
AMA hegemony, went on the attack. The details of the process by which the AMA
destroyed Gerson's professional reputation have been described by Ward and
others. Gerson lost his hospital affiliation and was denied malpractice
The Journal, after all, solicits advertisers to pay top dollar for its pages,
whose 750,000 circulation still commands the greatest market share of doctors
(including fifteen international editions in 150 countries). The lure of
advertising profits continues to compete with the impartiality of "scientific
medicine." The AMA medical publicity machine Dr. Fishbein founded is running in
perpetual overdrive today. The "JAMA Report," a video news release, goes out
weekly on satellite to every TV network and local station in the United States,
reaching between 25 and 110 million viewers. Most major newspapers routinely
scan JAMA for breaking stories, as do wire services and radio. The AMA also
floods about 2,500 press outlets worldwide with weekly e-mails and faxes. The
credibility of the AMA's vaunted Code of Ethics, which ostensibly puts the
profession of healing above business, is in tatters today. In 1998 the AMA once
again was mired in negative publicity as the Seal of Acceptance experienced its
latest devaluation. After the AMA granted the Sunbeam corporation an exclusive
product endorsement for the manufacturer's medical devices without even
testing them, the medical association was set to receive millions of dollars in
licensing fees, which it planned to use to offset declining membership dues.
Outrage from the medical community and other competing companies crashed the
nakedly commercial transaction. The mass media roasted the AMA's signature
Historian Harris Coulter, PhD, has called Eclecticism "a more sophisticated
system of practice drawing on the same intellectual and philosophical sources"
as Thomsonianism (86). However, they had no systematic theory of diagnostics or
pharmacology, and basically accepted allopathic medicine's systems, substituting
their own vegetable cures. Regular and Eclectic physicians competed for the same
clients and generally despised each other. JAMA editor Morris Fishbein, MD,
called Eclecticism "the apotheosis of the old grandmother and witch-doctor
systems of treatment" (132). He championed chemotherapy and denied any utility
to herbs, whatsoever.
In 1912, 1921 and 1936, the AMA issued three volumes called Nostrums and
Quackery. These described the "evils" of patent medicines, which a few years
before had been a mainstay of the Journal of the American Medical Associations
revenue. In 1927, Morris Fishbein, MD, the editor of JAMA, issued a popular book
that included an "Encyclopedia of Cults and Quackery." Fishbein saw "cults"
everywhere. It is amusing that he even considered beauty parlors to be part of
the medical cult phenomenon. And he filled page after page with descriptions of
cults from Aero- to Zonotherapy. "The appeal of the bizarre is strong even to
enlightened men," wrote the enlightened Fishbein. "To a public educated to a
belief in the black art, magic, alchemy, and the miracles of the saints, the
unusual necessarily has an absolute fascination. Medicine in this way became
inordinately complex and chaotic". Fishbein and his colleagues set out to make
medicine simple and well organized, by centralizing everything under the control
of the AMA. They especially aimed at the destruction of Eclecticism and its
heirs. This set the stage for the great battle of the 20th century concerning
herbs and cancer, the Hoxsey saga.
Throughout Hoxsey's era, organized medicine denied any link between diet and
cancer. As Dr. Morris Fishbein contended, "There is no scientific evidence
whatsoever to indicate that modification in the dietary intake of food or any
other nutritional essentials are of any specific value in the control of
cancer." Science has since contradicted him. In general terms, contemporary
research has shown that the Hoxsey diet does directly serve important anticancer
Over the years Fishbein not only established himself as the gifted editor of
the most widely read medical journal in the United States; he also learned how
to extend his editorial position, how to project his opinions nationwide. He
became, as the saying went in those years, a "personality." TIME referred to him
as "the nation's most ubiquitous, the most widely maligned, and perhaps most
influential medico." In addition to his development of JAMA as an editorial and
personal voice, Fishbein also continually railed against "quackery."
In a brief twenty years, the AMA came to dominate medical practice through
brute financial force, political manipulation, and professional authority
enhanced by rising public favor with "scientific" medicine. The AMA emerged as
the supreme arbiter of medical practice, making binding pronouncements
regulating even the most picayune details. American medicine surged forward as a
profit-driven enterprise of matchless scope. By the time Dr. Morris Fishbein
assumed the mantle of Dr. Simmons, who had himself started out as a homeopath,
the AMA was at the helm of a strapping new industry flying the allopathic flag.
The code word for competition was quackery.
Rife's discovery was mysteriously burned to the ground. Rife was dragged
through the California court system on trumped-up charges. So powerful were
Fishbein's connections to major medical groups of the day that many doctors who
were successfully using the Rife Beam Ray had to cease their use of it for fear
of being blacklisted. Because the Rife Beam Ray was suppressed by greedy,
unscrupulous people, this cure for cancer was buried and nearly forgotten. It
turns out that Rife was not the only researcher experimenting with using an
electromagnetic field device to treat cancer.
Dr. Fishbein's crusade to eliminate the irregulars played no small part in
the AMA's financial success by throttling economic competition. While member
dues accounted for half the AMA's revenues, the balance flowed from the Journal,
now the most profitable publication in the world. Flush with revenues, it soon
became known as "the tail that wagged the dog." In addition, the Journal owned
or controlled another half-dozen medical journals along with the thirty-five
state society journals, with advertising revenues of over $2 million, a huge sum
in those days.
The AMA's core mission of preserving the power, privilege, and financial
prosperity of doctors has established it as an organization "notorious for
confrontation, ultimatums, and hardball politics".17 Its political action
committee, AMPAC, has given over $100 million over the last twenty years to 83
percent of federal congressional representatives and senators. The AMA actually
owns the very building in the nation's capital that the government leases for
its federal political action committee monitoring program.
Morris Fishbein became a lot more to the AMA than his title of Managing
Editor would suggest. He was its chief executive and business manager. He
brought in the money and he decided how it was spent. His investments on behalf of the
Association were extremely profitable, so the grateful membership could not, or
at least dared not, complain too bitterly. One of the reasons for this
investment success was that over ten-million dollars of the organization's
retirement fund had been put into leading drug companies.