In his book The Social Transformation of American Medicine Paul Starr hasn’t exactly written that the AMA is (or was) “pure evil,” at least not by page 260, which is as far as I’ve read. But on that page, and the next, he writes,
In 1921 women reformers, taking advantage of the new power of the female franchise, persuaded Congress to pass the Sheppard-Towner Act, which provided matching funds to the states for prenatal and child health centers. These centers, staffed mainly by public health nurses and women physicians, sought to reduce rates of maternal and infant mortality by giving pregnant woman advice on personal hygiene and infant care. As the historian Sheila Rothman writes, “Advances in heath care were to come not from the construction of hospitals, medical research, or the training of medical specialists–or even from new cures for disease. Rather, educated women were to instill in other women a broad knowledge of the rules of bodily hygiene and in this way prevent the onset of disease.” But private physicians began to take an increased interest in these functions, and in 1927 the AMA was able to persuade Congress to discontinue the program.
If there’s another side to this story, Starr doesn’t reveal it.
UPDATE: At the time I wrote this post, two weeks ago, I had not finished Starr’s book. By today, I have. More posts about his book are forthcoming.