Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Statement on the Physician-Patient Relationship and Reproductive Health Care
June 2022—Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that has overturned Roe vs. Wade, STFM continues to stand by our previous board-approved statement shared in May of 2022 regarding the physician-patient relationship and reproductive healthcare.
Interferes with Physician-Patient Relationship
STFM strongly opposes any laws or regulations that interfere in the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician. Patients must be able to depend on their physicians’ training, expertise, and use of medical evidence to help them make critical decisions about their personal health. Physicians and health care professionals must be able to practice medicine freely and without threat of punishment, harassment, or retribution.
Restricts Residency Education
We strongly oppose restrictions on educating family medicine trainees on the full scope of clinical care. This opposition is consistent with our advocacy policy that Congress and federal agencies should not legislate or mandate restrictions on the educational content of training programs. Any such restrictions limit and adversely affect our educational mission. We reaffirm the right of each trainee to choose aspects of their training consistent with their belief systems.
Restricts Access to Health Care and Compounds Inequity
We strongly oppose limits on access to health care and laws that risk the well-being and safety of the physicians and health care professionals who provide care for them. Health policy experts predict that added restrictions to the accessibility of full scope reproductive health care will most affect those in rural areas, women of color, and those who have low income.1
Rewards Vigilante Behavior
We strongly oppose any laws that reward citizens who file suit against those participating in full-spectrum health care.
The STFM Board of Directors represents more than 5,000 family medicine educators, including physicians, researchers, behavioral health professionals, pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants, residents, medical students, and others involved in family medicine education, with a mission to advance family medicine to improve health through a community of teachers and scholars.
- Hassanein N. People of color, the poor and other marginalized people to bear the brunt if Roe v. Wade is overturned. USA Today. May 3, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2022/05/03/people-color-most-impacted-if-roe-v-wade-overturned/9626866002/
Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Opposes Texas Legislation That Undermines the Physician-Patient Relationship and Restricts Training
September 2021—The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine is deeply concerned about the consequences of the Texas state law Senate Bill 8, which took effect September 1, 2021. These consequences include the effective banning of certain medical communication between a physician and patient, restricting clinical training of the full scope of women’s health care, encouraging rewards for citizens to file claims about suspicions of legal procedures and inspiring the replication of these laws in other states.
Interferes with Physician-Patient Relationship
STFM strongly opposes any laws and regulations that interfere in the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician. Patients must be able to depend on their physicians’ training, expertise and use of medical evidence to help them make critical decisions about their personal health. Physicians and health care professionals must be able to practice medicine freely and without threat of punishment, harassment, or retribution.
Restricts Residency Education
We are opposed to restrictions on our physicians and educators to teach and provide clinical training for the full scope of family medicine to our residents. Our opposition is consistent with our advocacy policy that Congress and/or federal agencies should not legislate or mandate restrictions on the educational content of training programs. Any such restrictions limit and/or adversely affect our educational mission. We reaffirm the right of each trainee to choose certain aspects of their training consistent with their belief systems. This policy informs our Board’s position on the Texas legislation.
Restricts Access to Health Care
This Texas law goes against our policies and beliefs in the value of having appropriate numbers of health care personnel to meet the health care needs of the population and to provide access to health care for all individuals. Abortion is part of full spectrum women's health care and physicians can use their own judgement as to whether to provide it.
Rewards Vigilante Behavior
Senate Bill 8 allows for a bounty that encourages citizens to file a cause of action, whether frivolous or provable, against physicians, other health care professionals, and anyone who ‘aids or abets’ an act of providing full spectrum health care. This raises concerns about access to health care for women and the wellbeing and safety of the physicians and health care professionals who provide care for them.
If permitted to proceed, this law will be precedent-setting and could normalize vigilante interference in the patient-physician relationship in other complex, controversial medical or ethical situations. Legislating the communication between patient and physician is not something we can allow to happen.
Patients and their physicians should be the ones to make medical decisions together about what care is best for them. This law obstructs that ability. We strongly urge the courts to act swiftly to strike down this law and any similar legislation.
The STFM Board of Directors, represents more than 5,000 family medicine educators, including physicians, researchers, behavioral health professionals, pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants, residents, medical students, and others involved in family medicine education, with a mission to advance family medicine to improve health through a community of teachers and scholars.
STFM Statement Against Discrimination
STFM opposes all discrimination in any form, including but not limited to, that on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic affiliation, health, age, disability, economic status, body habitus or national origin.
STFM Policy on Moving and/or Rescheduling STFM Conferences and Events
STFM will move and/or reschedule a conference, meeting, or event:
- If any circumstances make it inadvisable, illegal, impossible, or commercially unreasonable to proceed with the official STFM event, STFM would advise moving the event to another location. If another location with comparable facilities is not available, STFM may be forced to cancel the event or move it to a virtual offering. The STFM Board will make the final decision on whether to move or cancel an STFM conference. Examples of such circumstances would include:
- Declaration of pandemic or infectious disease by the US government/CDC, or the World Health Organization where the health and safety of our members and staff are compromised due to this pandemic/disease
- US government declared war
- Actual, threatened, or suspected terrorism as declared by US government
- Civil disorder in the city of the event
- US government travel restrictions and/or curtailment of transportation facilities preventing the majority of attendees from arriving at event
- Threat of imminent natural disaster (such as the event city being in the projected path of a hurricane) interferes with event location operations, or the ability of the majority of attendees to travel safely to the event site.
- These logistical concerns, based on our hotel cancellation language, may trigger STFM to move a meeting. These include:
- Major construction that would detract from the educational focus of the conference or meeting
- Strike and/or labor disputes at the event venue
- Bankruptcy or change in ownership management such that there is concern that the owners could not meet the obligations of the contract
- The inability of the Hotel or other contracted event venue(s) to provide the agreed upon facilities required for the event
- When considering cancelling a hotel contract, serious consideration will be given to the amount of the cancellation penalty and the willingness of the hotel or event site to release STFM from these financial penalties as outlined in the event contract.
- Rather than boycotting a state, STFM should consider opportunities for community engagement to support local faculty in the area by bringing our presence to a city/state.
STFM will not move and/or reschedule a conference, meeting, or event if:
- Local city/state legislation and laws infringe on the beliefs of some STFM members.
- Local city/state stance on social issues infringes on the beliefs of some STFM members.
Background That Factored Into the Board’s Decision
- As a business practice, STFM leadership has agreed it should not use moving conference locations due to concerns raised about legislation in a particular state as an advocacy tool to promote change. STFM contracts its conference venues 3-5 years in advance. The list of political and social issues that could trigger such requests from members is long and includes gun carry legislation, voting rights laws, immigration laws, gender equity issues, women’s health rights, and more. A few years ago, a group of members were advocating for STFM to move the Conference on Medical Student Education from Georgia due to new legislation in Atlanta on open carry gun laws (bearing visible firearms in public). As of December 2021, 42 states allow for open carry for some or all firearms. The current environment of numerous states adding more restrictive language related to abortion access is another example of an issue where STFM would have a difficult time predicting and/or avoiding meeting in states where legislation is a concern for some of our members.
- STFM has learned from the experience of Association of Departments of Family Medicine. The ADFM Board has also created guidelines for when they will consider canceling a contract and moving an ADFM conference. The intent is for ADFM to be less reactionary to requests to move conferences based on local social/political concerns.
- If defaulting from signed hotel agreements to shift our conference site based on current local concerns becomes our standard approach for the Society to advocate for change, we could easily find ourselves with a short list of states to hold a conference, limited options of hotels that will work with us and/or have the space requirements to meet our needs, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotel penalties to make these late shifts. Having a reputation for pulling contracts for social issues makes it difficult for the Society to build good relationships with hotel chain representatives and negotiate favorable rates, features, and contract language that benefit STFM members.
- The fees for canceling a hotel contract can be incredibly steep and although our reserves may be able to cover a cancelation if truly necessary, we do not have the funds to cancel events repeatedly. For example, if STFM would have cancelled our agreement with our 2022 Annual Spring Conference hotel, the penalty for STFM would have been $950,265.
- STFM has a core value of openness and a diverse membership, some of whom suggest STFM is too liberal and assumes all members feel the same way about issues. We've learned from membership surveys and conversations that some members want us to stay out of social issues and focus on faculty and leadership development and curricular issues that advance family medicine. We have members with conservative perspectives, and STFM must respect and hear their voices as well.
- STFM conferences also have an impact on the workers at these properties and the local businesses, many of whom represent diverse communities.
- Rather than boycotting a state, STFM will consider opportunities for community engagement to support local faculty in the area by bringing our presence to a city/state.
Approved by the STFM Board of Directors - December 2, 2021