The officers and council members of the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) are facing an ethical dilemma and society president Dr. Nancy Rigotti is asking members for their input. During the opening plenary session at the organization’s annual meeting in Minneapolis this week, Dr. Rigotti reminded the assembled membership that next year’s annual meeting is slated to be held in Phoenix, Arizona. Given the recent passage of that state’s sweeping and controversial immigration bill authorizing police officers to stop suspected illegal immigrants and demand proof of citizenship, ““We are uneasy about holding our annual meeting there,” Dr. Rigotti said. “I’ve heard from a number of people who don’t think we should go. One of our council members said to me,‘The fact that I won’t be able to go for a morning jog without bringing proof of citizenship makes me very uncomfortable.'”
The dilemma: how to make a statement against the legislation without sacrificing the annual meeting itself or the financial commitment made toward it. “Should we go ahead and hold the meaning as planned and stage a protest while there, or should we cancel the meeting and lose our non-refundable $500,000 deposit?” Dr. Rigotti asked. The financial hit would be particularly hard to swallow considering the organization is currently in the midst of a capital campaign—announced during the same plenary address—to raise nearly the same amount for a down payment on a new property in the DC area to house the SGIM National Office (the nonrenewable lease on the current office space is close to expiration).
Standing up for a cause always comes with a price, Dr. Rigotti acknowledged. The challenge, of course, is deciding how much one is willing to pay.