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June 26, 2008

The AMA Writes the Laws


“It would be unconstitutional for Congress to create a statute stating that it was a crime to engage in conduct forbidden by the AMA, or by particular HCBPs, or by the health care industry as a whole. This is because neither the AMA, nor the HCBPs, nor the health care industry more generally are governmental entities, and Congress does not have the power to delegate law-making authority outside of the government.”
DEFENDANTS JOINT MEMORANDUM, United States v. Stephen J. vs. Linda K. Schneider

“Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
Sir Thomas More, in Robert Bolt’s “A Man For All Seasons”

SUBJECT: The AMA Writes the Laws

Should the American Medical Association (AMA) have the power to write laws? Some bureaucrats think they already do. proposed the “Write the Laws Act” (WTLA) to prevent unelected bureaucrats from writing regulations that have the force of law. Only elected representatives should have that power. We believe there should be “no legislation without representation.”

Sadly, we’ve just learned that the problem WTLA seeks to fix is even worse than we thought. Unelected bureaucrats in the Justice Department have now taken to treating the standards of a private organization, the AMA, as if they had the force of law.

A doctor in Kansas is facing twenty years to life for failing to conform to the standards of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Stephen J. Schneider and his wife, nurse Linda K. Schneider, are charged with illegally distributing prescription drugs, along with several counts of related fraud and illegal monetary transactions.

Did the Schneiders sell illegal drugs? No. They simply prescribed FDA-approved medications to people in pain. Now they face years in prison simply because the Justice Department disagrees with their medical judgments.

That’s bad enough, but there’s more . . .

While the Schneiders are charged with violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Schneiders didn’t actually violate any specific provision in it. Instead, the Justice Department accuses the Schneiders of violating . . .

  • The policies of the Health Care Benefit Providers (HCBP’s) whom they billed — if true, then the HCBP’s should sue the Schneiders in civil court.
  • Kansas state law  — if true, then Kansas should prosecute them, not the federal government.
  • “Industry principles” — but those “principles” aren’t encoded in federal law, and if the Schneiders violated them, they should instead be investigated by medical licensing boards. 
  • The Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code book, a “privately written, trademarked and copyrighted publication of a commercial affiliate of the American Medical Association.”

The AMA, of course, is a private organization, and while the CPT is used by the government, it is not law.

It’s important to recognize that Justice Department bureaucrats want to imprison the Schneiders because they disagree with the Schneider’s medical judgments, NOT because the Schneider’s broke the law. Mere bureaucrats are treating the guidelines of private organizations as if they were laws. Like a six year-old in a playground game, the bureaucrats are “making it up as they go along.” 

This prosecution threatens all doctors — and their patients, including you.

The Schneider’s case, and others like it, will encourage doctors to let their patients suffer in agony rather than risk a prison sentence. But . . .

Under WTLA the Schneider’s case would be dismissed, because the couple isn’t being accused of violating any law enacted by Congress. According to the WTLA, this would constitute a complete defense. 

Thomas More is right: if the Devil breaks the law he should be prosecuted, but not before then. The same should go for doctors and everyone else. This is a fundamental principle of free society. Our constitution says that the only valid laws are those enacted by Congress, not those written by unelected bureaucrats or lifted from the guidelines of private organizations by tyrannical prosecutors.

Tell your Representative and Senators to introduce the “Write the Laws Act.” In your personal comments, tell them about the Schneider case and how the Justice Department is treating AMA rules as if they had the force of law. Tell them the WTLA would prevent such a legal travesty from ever occurring again. You can send your message here.

Also, we’re down to 4 days left in the month of June, and we need just $763 to earn the $3,600 in matching contributions and make budget for this month. We really need your help to make the goal by the deadline. You can contribute here.

Thank you for being a a part of the growing Downsize DC Army.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President

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