Healthcare workers will protest the American Medical Association’s silence in the face of genocide

On June 8, healthcare workers are staging a demonstration outside of a meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates

June 05, 2024 by Natalia Marques
Photo: Zoe Alexandra

On June 8, healthcare workers will demonstrate outside of a meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates in Chicago. These health employees, representing diverse sectors in healthcare, are protesting the AMA’s refusal to address the ongoing genocide in Gaza, despite taking action regarding other conflicts in the past, such as the war in Ukraine.

The protest is being organized by a range of pro-Palestine healthcare workers’ organizations, including Healthcare Workers for Palestine and Doctors Against Genocide. 

Healthcare workers drop a banner denouncing the American Medical Association outside the AMA headquarters (Photo: Chicago Healthcare Workers for Palestine)

Peoples Dispatch spoke to Emily Hacker, a member of Healthcare Workers for Palestine, who said that the goal of protesters was to pressure the AMA to call for a ceasefire. 

“The impetus for that was the large-scale destruction of Palestinian health care infrastructure within Gaza,” Hacker said. “We’re seeing hospitals being bombed, ambulances being bombed, doctors and other medical workers being targeted and shot. The AMA is the sixth largest lobbying organization in the United States, it’s bigger than Boeing. It’s bigger than Lockheed Martin, it’s bigger than the [National Rifle Association]. They have a tremendous amount of domestic and international influence, and because they carry such weight within the realm of health care, we felt it would be appropriate for them to use their voice in this way.” 

In addition, Hacker outlined that an important reason healthcare workers want the “AMA and all other healthcare institutions to be involved in ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine”  is that “the US can spends billions and billions of dollars on bombs and bullets, but there are 26 million Americans with no health insurance and 150 million Americans rely on Medicare or Medicaid.”

“People can’t afford their insulin, but there’s always money for bombs,” Hacker articulated. 

Healthcare workers have been pressuring the AMA for months, and have been met with silence. Hacker and her colleagues have been protesting the AMA since December of last year. “Last November, at another AMA House of Delegates meeting the medical students and residents section had also put forward a ceasefire resolution that was almost instantaneously shut down by the AMA leadership,” Hacker described. “They were not allowed to even discuss it or bring it to the delegates floor.”

At the AMA House of Delegates meeting that healthcare workers are protesting on Saturday, pro-Palestine medical students have put forward a resolution for the AMA to support “a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine in order to protect civilian lives and healthcare personnel.”

“Our AMA President issued a statement condemning the October 7th attack on Israel, and the AMA has previously released statements vocalizing solidarity with Ukraine, passed a policy calling for continuous support of organizations providing humanitarian missions to Ukrainian refugees, and contributed $100,000 in humanitarian aid through the AMA Foundation to Ukraine,” reads the resolution. “On November 9, 2023, our AMA Board of Trustees released a statement on the humanitarian crisis in Israel and Palestine but did not address the pivotal and life-saving issue of ceasefire.” According to Hacker, while the medical students hope that the resolution will pass, they predict that it will not.

Apart from pushing the AMA to call for a ceasefire, Hacker articulated that healthcare workers are organizing to push the AMA even further beyond “the bare minimum.”

In the long term, Hacker says that, “we are working to target their money. Ultimately, I don’t know how much the AMA cares about us standing outside and making them look bad for a day, but they do care about profit margins.”

“[The AMA] helped coordinate the donation of over 500 bulletproof vests for Ukrainian doctors and paramedics and as it should be, health care workers should be protected,” Hacker said. “We want to see that same energy of both monetary donations and physical donations of material go into [Gaza]. The AMA has such clout, both monetarily and professionally, and we are seeing now 534 health care workers have been killed in Palestine.” 

“We also want not only monetary sponsorship, but there’s going to be a tremendous amount of medical infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt within Palestine and not just within Gaza, in the occupied West Bank as well,” Hacker continued. “That could look like the donation of ambulances, education exchange programs for medical students from Gaza to come here, or doctors from the US to go and teach medical students to help rebuild the infrastructure that has been destroyed.”

Healthcare Workers for Palestine march in the streets of Chicago (Photo: Chicago Healthcare Workers for Palestine)

Peoples Dispatch spoke to Dr. Alaa Ali of Doctors Against Genocide at the People’s Conference for Palestine, who as an AMA member has been disheartened by their lack of action.

“This organization is complicit in the genocide. There have been so many actions that they could have have done to stop this genocide, to stop what’s going on, to at least do the right thing. And they haven’t done it,” Ali said.

According to both Hacker and Ali, healthcare workers have a duty to stand against the genocide in Gaza. “We all took an oath that said do no harm,” Hacker expressed. “When we see health care workers around the world being targeted, we see patients being targeted, we take that personally. That’s our profession. In a way, those are our patients.”