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EPM readers speak out against ACEP’s new ruling prohibiting incoming leaders from answering questions from non-ACEP publications.

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In July, Emergency Physicians Monthly published an editorial letter spelling out – and challenging – a recent gag order placed by ACEP on incoming council leaders. The rule, likely created in response to Greg Henry’s plan to interview each incoming ACEP president, declared that “Communications and/or interviews regarding candidacy in emergency medicine newsletters or publications other than those published by ACEP are prohibited.”

As an independent publication supportive of a free press, we were obviously surprised and concerned about this decision to censor free and open dialogue. But we were not alone. Once published online, the response to the gag order was both rapid and vehement. Some of the strongest responses came from the ranks of ACEP itself. Such as the response of former ACEP president Larry Bedard.

“Frankly, I think the ACEP steering committee’s position is outrageous,” wrote Bedard, who helmed the College from 1996-1997. “The primary role and responsibility of the ACEP President is to be a spokesperson for the college. In this role they need to be able to speak to all groups both friends and foes of emergency medicine and ACEP. As a Council member I think it would be very helpful in deciding who to vote for based on how they respond to tough questions.”

Some readers took a more philosophical perspective, questioning the gag order’s more global ramifications. “Science and medicine are based fundamentally on questionng what others accept as true,” wrote Keith Raymond. “When inquiry is quashed belief replaces verifiable proof and we return to the Dark Ages. Complaining and acknowledging is not useful, we must agree to behave badly and face the consequences or be silenced forever.”

“I hope that ACEP is not returning to the ugly days when a small but powerful oligarchy from large national groups tried to use ACEP for its own enrichment,” writes Laura Pimentel. “I call for free speech and the removal of the gag order placed on ACEP Council candidates.”

Many readers made it clear that this decision would impact their decision to renew their ACEP membership. “I always supported ACEP (even as a councilor for many years) but this attitude is one of the reasons I quit ACEP a few years ago,” wrote Mary Ann Cooper.

“I have been a member of ACEP for 30 years,” wrote Mickey Kolodny. “If this is true I may not renew.”

“I thought ACEP was growing up into a more responsive organization,” wrote Vicken Totten. “I am ashamed. I will not renew.”

Some comments had a bit more teeth: Linda Bobrik asked “Where are the guts of this organization?” while Dr. C. Kennedy called the gag order “unconscionable behavior.” On June 25th, ACEP officially responded to EPM’s editorial with a post on the blog The Central Line. However, this response by James Cusick did little to clarify the issue. In fact, certain lines – like “Our goal is to avoid candidates being put in the position of commenting on College policy without adequate preparation,” – seemed to dig ACEP’s hole even deeper. In response to Cusick’s editorial, Charles Pilcher wrote, “The limitation on candidate interviews is poorly thought out and needs immediate revision. You probably had some good thought in mind, but this is counter-productive to an open election.”

At the time of publication, a formal resolution calling for the repeal of the gag order was being drafted by former ACEP president Larry Bedard and educator Jerome Hoffman.

Emergency Physicians Monthly stands firm in the belief that this gag order should be immediately removed, allowing for a free and open dialogue with ACEP Council candidates, for the sake of a more informed election.

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