The AMA Journal of Ethics invites original submissions for peer review consideration on the following themes that will be explored in 2022 and 2023:


August 2022: Inequity and Iatrogenic Harm

Three kinds of health inequity are these: inequity in access to health care; inequity in the quality of health care services, experiences, and interactions; and inequity in health status. Iatrogenic harm constitutes damage—not limited to errors—induced by health care. These kinds of inequity can exacerbate iatrogenic harm to people whose embodiment experiences and identities are minoritized along axes of gender, race, ethnicity, and comorbidities. Iatrogenic harms also exacerbate health inequity. This theme issue investigates ethical, clinical, legal, and social dimensions of relationships between iatrogenic harm and health inequity and illuminates possible responses.

The August 2022 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® welcomes wide ranging explorations of iatrogenesis as informed by diversity and plurality in human embodiment forms; inequity in how US health care is poised to respond less robustly to mental illness or cognitive disability than to general medical comorbidities; inequity along axes of class, race, ethnicity, English language proficiency, health literacy, or ability; and related topics.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow all Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 30 September 2021.

September 2022: What We Owe Health Care Workers Earning Low Wages

If you’re a health care professional in the US with colleagues who are paid a minimum wage, their labor is valued so little in the health care marketplace that it would be a crime to pay them less. The US Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938 requires employers under its jurisdiction to pay workers at least a federal minimum wage. Yet in most places in the US, a living wage is at least twice that amount. Privation, risk of injury and illness, uninsurance, and underinsurance undermine economic, gender, and racial and ethnic social and health equity for US health aides, environmental services workers, nursing and medical assistants, paramedics, and their children. This theme issue investigates what we—as citizens, clinicians of status, and organizations—owe these vulnerable workers whose hour-to-hour care for some of our most vulnerable patients is heavily relied upon and woefully undervalued.

Persistent tolerance for underpaying and undervaluing many health care workers and their labor says much about our characters, our conceptions of reciprocity, and our regard for women and immigrants. This September 2022 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® welcomes wide-ranging ethical, clinical, legal, economic, social, and cultural perspectives on key questions about occupational safety, just compensation, unionization trends, the nature and scope of the solidarity obligations of clinicians and organizations of status to promote the interests of colleagues with low incomes, and the fact that vast racial and ethnic diversity does not extend to positions of status in health care educational opportunity and workplaces.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 30 October 2021.

October 2022: Health Care Waste

Most health care generated waste is not hazardous, but it is voluminous. Health care organizations have obligations to manage waste in ways that minimize environmental impact and express their status as good citizens of their global, domestic, and regional communities. Resource-rich countries generate on average more than double the amount of hazardous waste per bed per day than resource-poor countries, and waste processing is concentrated in minoritized communities nearly everywhere. Segregating waste and reducing overall volume are key to curb primary and secondary emissions that contaminate air and water, and moving the health care sector to net zero and decarbonization means motivating health equity.

This issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® investigates these and other key issues related to health care waste; climate change; civic and urban planning for waste management; how much and which kinds of waste should be more or less tolerated for health care purposes; whether and when patients, clinicians, or others should be regarded as end-users and whether and to what extent end-usership confers just disposal responsibility; criteria for what constitutes just waste management and disposal; how geopolitical waste processing and disposal trends influence health care practices; net zero waste and decarbonization leadership; and the legal landscape of future health care waste production and management.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 30 November 2021.

November 2022: How Much Will It Cost?

An honest answer to the question How much will it cost? is what most people mean by price transparency in health care. Yet, what your health care costs you or your family, or even being given an opportunity to assess whether you can afford it, is not how price transparency in health care is defined by even the most dedicated advocates. A 2014 report from a landmark task force, for example, states that what all Americans deserve from health care price transparency is “accurate price estimates from a reliable source.” If this is the best definition of price transparency a well-intentioned, well-informed task force suggests the American public can expect, one might reasonably suspect that, without dramatic reforms to financial structures of US health care, an honest answer to How much will it cost? might not even be possible. This theme issue investigates why this problem matters clinically and ethically to every stakeholder, rich or poor, in the US health care system.

One reason knowledge of how health services’ prices are determined is important to patients and purchasers is that it informs what demand-side stakeholders (ie, patients, payers, and purchasers) think services should cost in the marketplace and at a point of emergent or elective care. Health services’ price information also shape stakeholders’ ideas about how valuable those services are. Such construals of value are economic and ethical in nature, as they inform stakeholders’ comparisons among how services motivate (on the demand side) our own, loved ones, or communities’ health goals or payers’ willingness to finance them and (on the supply side) our clinicians’ and organizations’ goals or payers’ authority to limit them.

Overall, calls for price transparency have been both demand- and supply-driven in health care. We welcome a wide range of manuscripts, as these calls tend to express goals generally shared by patients and clinicians who recognize that pricing opacity abets ongoing unstainable rises in US health care costs, which harm all of us and gravely harm the most vulnerable among us. The November 2022 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® considers topics listed here and what pricing transparency should mean, according to whom, and why.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 23 December 2021.

December 2022: With Stillness and Solidarity

This issue considers the necessity of stillness and solidarity, as orientations to health care practice and professionalism, that enable transformation of students and clinicians from bystanders to upstanders. Stillness is conceived herein as a kind of virtue of intentional discipline applied to creating deliberate, restorative spatial and temporal interruption from day-to-day demands in order to nourish the moral motivational generosity needed for clinicians to care well for patients and to be good colleagues. Solidarity is conceived herein as an ethical value that must be deliberately nourished in health care education and work environments to maintain conditions such that slowing down, a necessary precedent to becoming still, can be transformed from being the political act of a single individual into a collective organizational and professional commitment to responding with care to our common and unique vulnerabilities.

This December 2022 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® considers these dimensions of health care ethics, moral psychology, and policy making and invites wide-ranging manuscripts on strategies for productive workflow interruption that promote stillness and solidarity; alliance-building; equity advocacy; and inclusive co-creation of sustainable models of health care organizational citizenship and community membership. Considerations about payers’ policies about reimbursement and about whether and clinicians’ work environments (ie, academic health centers, private practices) matter are also welcome.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 29 January 2022.

January 2023: Segregation in Academic Health Centers

Structural racism is deeply embedded in US health care. Legally sanctioned racial segregation in hospitals ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with fiscally incentivized enforcement through Medicare payment structures implemented in 1966. Yet, practices such as sorting patients by insurance status still perpetuate de facto racial and class segregation in academic health centers. This theme issue investigates a clear health equity demand to definitively end continued normalization of structural racism everywhere we care for our ill and injured. This issue considers sources of ethical, clinical, public health, and educational responsibilities to remediate health injustice where students and trainees learn their professions.  

This issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® considers current expressions of segregation in academic health centers and welcomes wide ranging perspectives from multiple stakeholders. We welcome manuscripts that equip us well to motivate new inquiry—grounded in ethics, art, economics, risk management, history, society and culture, health professions education innovation, and more—into still-present patterns of race- and class-based oppression.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 26 February 2022.

February 2023: Child Abuse and Neglect

Children are 40 times more likely to be confirmed victims of abuse or neglect than to be diagnosed with cancer. Clinicians have “upstream” obligations to help prevent abuse and neglect of children and “downstream” obligations as mandatory reporters, first responders, secondary illness and injury documentarians, gatherers of forensic evidence, and communicators with children, perpetrators, parents, and colleagues during or following clinical encounters. Less frequently considered, however, is how clinicians should try to promote short- and long-term healing among persons who are or were victims of childhood abuse or neglect trauma and how clinicians can best promote healing among persons—including themselves— struggling to manage their own psychological and emotional responses and secondary trauma of taking care of child victims of abuse or neglect.

This issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® considers these and related topics. Manuscripts exploring how extended home stays during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated hardship for children living in abusive or neglectful environments; communication strategies for navigating prenatal or postnatal neonatal abstinence syndrome; clinicians’ roles in child welfare agencies’ child removal decision making processes or agencies’ maintenance of decision files; nature and scope of pediatric patients’ rights to consent to or refuse pelvic examinations indicated for rape or sexual abuse; conflict of duties to mandatorily report with duties to keep patients’ health information confidential; whether, when, and how to try to recruit others as allies when the nature and scope of their roles as perpetrators of or accessories to a crime against a child is unknown or unknowable; model curricula; and other topics are welcome.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 29 March 2022.

March 2023: Clinicians in Government

Clinicians serving federal or state government in the United States are accountable to patients, the public, and their professions in ways that transcend clinicians’ typical duties to individual patients and colleagues or fiduciary duties to society. One reason for this is that, when clinicians draw upon their professional skill sets to help administer agencies, make law, or enforce regulations, they do so with state authority. Governing well usually requires skill in coordinating personnel, integrating policy, and implementing practice changes in large, complex public and private organizations that, directly or indirectly, have duties to care for persons who are ill, injured, and vulnerable. Governing well also requires managing budgets and stakeholders’ competing interests and navigating a plurality of views about how limited resources for public health and safety should be stewarded. Clinician governors’ legal and ethical responsibilities extend to preparing, building, and maintaining health sector capacity to deliver quality services equitably in the best of times and during crises. Our lives often depend on how fully clinician governors’ offices are respected and how competently and efficiently their roles are executed.

We welcome wide-ranging manuscripts clinician governance, including clinicians’ public health roles in combatting misinformation, responding to skepticism about evidence-based recommendations, creating and implementing triage protocols, and related topics.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 30 April 2022.

April 2023: Meat and Health

As meat production and consumption increases globally, so do incidence of diet-related illnesses, such as coronary artery disease and obesity. Some meat industry practices undermine public and environmental health, both of which clinicians, health professions, health care organizations, and governments are duty-bound to promote. This issue considers the nature and scope of these groups’ obligations to mitigate negative influences of nonhuman animal production and consumption on health in individual, community, domestic, and international spheres.

We welcome manuscripts for the April 2023 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® on ethics and health policy dimensions of meat production and consumption, including clinicians’ responsibilities as thought leaders in the clinical management of harms incurred by nonhuman animal production and consumption; health, social, environmental, and cultural consequences of plant-based meat substitutes; stewardship and roles of nonhuman animals in human food chains and human character; norms about expressing respect for meat-based dietary preferences, culinary practices, and traditions; whether and to what extent human production and consumption of nonhuman animals as food is ethically distinct from human production and consumption of nonhuman animals in biomedical or behavioral research; and how we should consider the nature and scope of dietary freedom in light of meat industrial psychology and marketing influences on choice architecture in the food supply.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 28 May 2022.

May 2023: Why “community” health?

Defining who is part of a local, regional, domestic, and international community is as important as determining what constitute the most just processes for consulting communities, their members, and their leaders about the range of health services that should be offered to meet individual and collective health needs. Guiding health care organizations and holding them accountable, working with researchers as human subjects and citizen scientists, and informing governance and policy-making structures are key community-based roles that situate whether, how well, and for whom health care infrastructure, service delivery operations, and revenue streams work.

This issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® investigates how responses to the question What is health care for? vary according to community members’ needs, how authentic community membership is lived and practiced in specific spaces and times, and which mechanisms exist for just and inclusive engagement. The journal welcomes manuscripts on a wide range of topics including community consultation, citizen science, public health practice and research, resource allocation, and more.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 30 June 2022.

June 2023: Patient-Centered Transgender Surgical Care

The November 2016 issue of the journal, Transgender Health, focused on the importance of expanding gender-affirming health care services, enhancing quality of transgender patients’ clinical encounters, and improving general medical and mental health outcomes among patients with non-binary gender identities. This issue follows up on that initial inquiry, delving specifically into relationships among autonomy protections and patient-centered informed consent processes in gender-affirming surgical practice.

For this June 2023 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics® we welcome manuscripts on a wide range of topics on this set of themes, developing patient-reported outcome metrics, patient perspectives on how a “gender dysphoria” diagnosis facilitate or undermines their pursuits of self-affirming gender expressions, how care teams should work with transgender patients to manage hormone-related comorbidities during surgical care and recovery, and more.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 28 July 2022.