Working doctors have made their dissatisfaction with the American Board of Medical Specialties’ (ABMS) time-limited certification known for years. They have tried to reason with the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). They have exposed the corruption for all to see. They have gone to Washington DC. They have presented these findings to the leadership of the American Medical Association, ABMS, American College of Physicians, and the AMA House of Delegates. They have tried to get meaningful legislation passed at the state level for years. They created their own competing non-profit “board” to offer an alternative to the time-limited credential. They contacted major medical journal editors about the lack of proper disclosure of financial conflicts of interest. They tried to publish an article documenting the harms caused by MOC® (and called “very important” by one reviewer) was repeatedly suppressed from publication. They contacted the Internal Revenue Service. Then they gave one last “Hail Mary” pass to the ABMS by submitting survey results organized by that alternate board from 21,000 physicians to the ABMS Vision Commission, all to no avail.
MOC® (or some bizarre, fractionated form of MOC® rebranded as “continuous certification”) continues with all its lucrative trappings.
Now a new, tactic is unfolding to end ABMS time-limited certification nationwide: litigation.
A new free-to-join non-profit was created, run by a multi-specialty group of working physicians from across the nation (disclosure: I’m a co-founder). They created a GoFundMe page to fund anti-MOC litigation that has already raised over $200,000 and is supported by over 1000 physicians (and growing).
In light of the ABMS boards ignoring working physicians’ demands to end MOC®, or even allow a meaningful alternative to MOC®, physicians across specialty boards have felt empowered to initiate litigation against time-limited certification. Rather than thinking of this as doctors suing other doctors, it is more accurate to say that this is doctors taking a collective stand against insulated, self-elected, answer-to-no-one bureaucratic bodies; organizations that hide behind humanistic slogans while churning billions of hidden dollars for themselves.
The recent litigation timeline:6 December 2018 – The first class action anti-trust lawsuit against the ABIM – the largest ABMS member board – is filed.
23 January 2019 – The ABIM suit is amended to include racketeering and unjust enrichment claims.
26 Feb 2019 – Yesterday, another class action antitrust suit on behalf of approximately 25,000 US radiologists was filed in federal district court in Chicago against the American Board of Radiology.
How many more ABMS member boards will be sued?
ABMS and its member boards may claim to be nothing less than “a selfless ministry” in the service of medicine and that these lawsuits are frivolous, irresponsible, or even unprofessional. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those on the front lines of patient care fully understand the time and cost involved. But you can be sure of this: litigation was not the frontline physicians’ first option. Far from it. All other less time-consuming and expensive alternatives have already been exhausted.
To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but upholding the right against the wrong. All working physicians should climb off the sidelines and join this fight to end the unproven MOC® and “continuous certification” programs and recognize the legal battle against MOC® for what it is: not a campaign against continuing medical education, but rather a campaign against the massive runaway train of economic exploitation, self-enrichment, and micro-management of our professional lives that are now the hallmark of ABMS and its member boards.
Addendum 6 Mar 2019 – The MOC® legal battle now includes the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, too.
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