The American Medical Association has asked the Federal Trade Commission to disqualify its chairman, Michael Pertschuk, from the FTC's proceedings aimed at ending restrictions on advertising by doctors.
The FTC has accused the medical association of illegally restraining trade, preventing competition and thus keeping doctors' fees artificially high. The AMA said in its filing with the FTC that Pertschuk has " forsaken his responsibility of ultimately determining the merits of the charges against the AMA and has chosen instead to pursue the role of advocate."
The AMA has appealed a ruling by FTC Administrative Law Judge Ernest Barnes that restrictions on advertising by doctors violate the Federal Trade Act.
Pertschuk should not be allowed to vote or participate in that appeal process because he already has "demonstrated his prejudice" against the AMA's position, the medical association claims.
The AMA case is somewhat different from a successful effort in a federal court by the children's advertising industry to have Pertschuk disqualified from FTC proceedings into possible curbs on television advertising aimed at children.
In the children's advertising case the FTC is involved in rulemaking. There has never before been a disqualification in such a proceeding, and Pertschuk has appealed the ruling.
But in the AMA case, the FTC has alleged that the AMA, along with other medical societies, had violated the law in limiting competition.
FTC commissioners have been barred in past cases from participating in proceedings based on violation of law.
In a press release, the AMA cited three Perkschuk statements as examples of alleged prejudice in the AMA case.
In one, Pertschuk asked: "Are we bound, then, to a closed circle of professionals identifying and adjudicating needs, professionals admitted to practice by professionals and self-policing by professionals? I don't think so."
In the other two, Pertschuk says he does not believe there is a proper mix of regulation, competition and self-regulation, in the health-care industry, and that complaints have been issued against the AMA as part of FTC plans to keep health costs down and raise the quality of consumer choices.