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You’ve Got Mail

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An AMA Director shares here some of the more amusing correspondence he and his staff receive … with spelling and grammar mistakes left intact.

Politicians are accustomed to receiving hate mail. As a long-time staffer at Parliament House, rarely a day passed by without a phone call, email, or letter from an angry constituent.

Likewise, whenever the AMA President is in the news, someone sends a missive telling us what they think. Certain issues particularly inflame correspondents, such as vaccinations, marriage equality, firearms and asylum seekers. Others have views about health matters ranging from cannabis use to particular medications they have invented or use that will save humanity.

Almost all correspondents receive a personalised response, and when people make false accusations or claims, the Public Health secretariat provides a detailed response. Letters that are abusive, homophobic or racist do not deserve a response. 

A commonality of many of the more disagreeable writers is to use CAPITALS and shout at the AMA; while not using spell check is commonplace.

Here are some more entertaining examples from letters to the AMA:

Winnie thoughtfully worried about the appearance of (a former) AMA President: “You look not very well – at least in comparison with your last interview by another abc reporter. a slight puff /swollen face/forehead…as if your whole head has been submerged in water for a while… that kind of puffiness. of course your hair was not coiffeured suited for an interview …  you need to be v.good to the abc backstage makeup artists,  they could be very unforgiving at times…i suppose you should be able to look after yourself as a very seasoned and senior physician, so please do that.”

Duncan had a problem with the AMA and doctors in general: “I submit that all your health advocacy is phony. The AMA is not independent, as you claim, because it is funded by doctors, the people you represent.”

Kim’s letter related to an ABC special on mental health. “One of the songs about mental illness that came on quite early in the evening. This song was putting [those with mental illness] down by trivialising their suffering and symptoms. I was in the bath! at the time so couldn’t turn the TV off, otherwise it wouldn’t even have lasted for the duration of the song. If there is any influence that you could have in this matter I’d appreciate your assistance.”

One of my favourite letters was from a school principle: “I have a boy in Year 1 whose mother gave him an amber necklace and bracelet to wear. The child’s teacher asked the boy not to wear these as they did not comply with our uniform policy. As a result, the boy’s mother has obtained a medical certificate from a local doctor which states the beads are part of his medication program. Is anyone in your organization able to outline the scientific theory about such beads as I am of the opinion I am dealing with voodoo medicine rather than verifiable fact.”

Sometimes letters are disturbing: “While my wife was pregnant, boxing promoter, [xxx] ,had me KO’d Twice, & this was after his mates had already fractured my skull on the street. I’d gone to them for help, because [xxx], who later -skullfractured 70YrOld [xxx] on the Manly Ferry, was responsible, BUT, he has a Federal Senator for an Auntie? And so the cops commit-ed the worst Corruption to cover for all these criminals…”

Oftentimes we reply with AMA position statements or other publications, although this doesn’t satisfy everyone: “Dear Mr.Simon Tatz, many thanks for your quick response to my query. could you please provide to me data that proves ‘herd immunity” exists.’ You have attached a document of 21 pages … You may have been in a hurry, as you did not answer my query.”

Similarly, George took exception: “Dear Simon, thank you for your response. However, what you have provided is a crock of rubbish. Really? Are you serious? This is how the AMA operates. You throw science out the door.”

Other writers provide too much personal information: “I offer the assistance
of a 50 year cannabis user who has PhD’s and has never had a day of mental
illness in my life. You keep making these broad statements about cannabis
but you have ZERO RESEARCH to back up your comments which are untrue and
very naïve about cannabis.”

David was one of those writers who was more metaphorical than specific: “You describe a beautiful construction that you in the AMA have built. I am sure you are very proud of it. My main point is to try to draw your attention to the possibility that some of the foundations of your construction are unreliable. It contributed to the leverage we needed to engineer a change in our constitution towards democratic processes. When people enter an adversarial political situation with a platform that is built on unreliable foundations, it is not uncommon for a diet of humble pie to follow. I am trying to warn you about this. I doubt that my advice is welcome, or will be heeded.”

Ben wrote to us many times about the “Spiritual Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation”, yet for some reason he wasn’t convinced by the ama reply.

My favourite letters are from AMA members who appreciate the work of Federal Council: “I have been a member of the AMA for over forty years. Never before have I felt so proud to be a member. May I congratulate you and your colleagues on your courage to make this strong and statement.”