Read this open letter to AHPRA from an anonymous Australian doctor who is resigning 20 years earlier than she had anticipated. In its response to Covid-19, she says the nation’s peak health agency has allowed a climate of fear and control to overshadow ethics, human rights, and patient-centred care.
To the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA),
I would like to advise you that I will be cancelling my registration as of today. I expect my recent payment for the upcoming period to be refunded in full. I do not intend to return to the profession at this stage, and I will be retiring approximately 20 years earlier than anticipated.
As a defence veteran who served this country to protect our people’s rights and freedoms, my heart is broken that our society and the health profession have so openly accepted discrimination and division. I reserve the right to reconsider my registration, without prejudice, if and when the health sector returns to working with ethical and moral standards.
I am disheartened and disgusted by the lack of ethics and the sudden widely accepted discrimination running rife in the medical profession in response to COVID-19. The relevant government mandates appear to breach medical ethics and human rights.
The health sector (and AHPRA as the regulating body) has allowed itself to be politicised and used as a tool to coerce. You have abandoned your duty to educate and empower patients and the wider community when deciding on the best individualised patient-centred care.
Even in a public health response, individualised care must remain a core value. After all, the public is simply a collection of individuals who live together in our community. Fear has replaced compassion. Coercion has replaced consent.
I cannot work in a system that supports medical apartheid, division and discrimination. It is a system that has allowed itself to be politicised rather than honouring the sacred relationship between a patient and their health practitioner.
My first lessons at university were about empathy, respect, medical autonomy and informed consent. I was taught to always include a treatment option to “do nothing”. I was also taught that I need not understand or agree with a patient’s decision, but I am morally and ethically obliged to respect and abide by it.
I cannot accept that public health should come at the expense of an individual’s health. Hearing some of my patients, friends, family and colleagues relay stories about the discriminatory, rude, mean, fear-mongering manner in which they have been treated and continue to be treated disgusts me to my very core. I have heard way too many such accounts. If you have not heard stories like these, perhaps it is time to stop and listen with an open heart and mind. The stories are plentiful.
I sent a letter to AHPRA dated 2nd August 2021 outlining some of my earlier concerns, yet no one from AHPRA has bothered to respond.
I cannot accept that it is okay for health professionals to refuse to treat patients based on their decision to not consent to a medical procedure – especially one that remains a medical trial with no long-term safety data. I cannot believe that elderly patients have had to wait outdoors during winter because they have a mask exemption. I am horrified that a cardiologist has refused to see an unvaccinated patient even though their appointment was to discuss valid concerns about the vaccination due to their cardiac history. Likewise, a skin specialist refused to see a little girl, and a young boy was turned away from a private hospital to have his open head wound repaired because their parents were unvaccinated (both of whom were single mothers).
This is only a sampling of the accounts I have heard.
What is taking place is abhorrent, unethical and inexcusable.
As my regulation body, you should be insisting that your practitioners act ethically, morally, and respectfully at all times and not simply in line with state government mandates. These mandates appear to breach the Nuremberg Code, the Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Magna Carta and Australia’s Constitution.
I cannot accept that our government can mandate any medical procedure, ever. As my 16-year-old told me when I got home from work one day recently, our government is breaching all of our human rights. (He had decided to look them up himself, unprompted – a proud mum moment). When exactly did we sell our souls and morals?
I cannot accept that my children or yours need to have a medical procedure to play sports, go to the cinema or work. How can we mandate this treatment when no one can possibly answer questions and concerns about long-term or intergenerational health impacts? The data quite simply does not yet exist. By all means, provide access to it, but the risks are yet unknown. Where there is risk, there must be choice.
I cannot accept that informed consent exists where there is fear and coercion. When a patient arrives for a medical procedure and says they are only having it to keep their job, that is not fully informed consent. Any practitioner who continues with that medical procedure breaches medical ethics. Check the immunisation handbook: it’s right there in black and white. I cannot work in an industry that suddenly believes this is an acceptable practice.
I cannot accept that our pandemic plans were thrown out the window, and we dismissed the years of planning based on quality evidence and professional advice. I am told to “trust the science” that led to the current decisions being made, but the government continues to fight tooth and nail to conceal this science from the public. As my regulatory agency, you have not been at the forefront in demanding that we see the evidence so that we can work to continually improve our understanding, knowledge and response.
I cannot accept that the scientific community is prevented from engaging in open and honest debate or that any medical practitioner who speaks against public health advice is suspended, defamed or discredited. And I cannot accept that the health profession is not alarmed and reacting to the safety mechanisms we put in place after previous errors in science came to our attention (Thalidomide is an obvious example). The Australian DAEN, United States VAERS and UK’s Yellow Card systems were set up for a reason, and the data is well worth reflecting on.
I cannot accept that my registration body and professional association have done little to nothing to support health practitioners in remaining free from political intervention in the decisions they make for individual patients. I was taught to personalise every patient’s treatment to maximise the best outcomes for them, something we used to refer to as patient-centred care.
It is unacceptable that GPs and all other health professionals are effectively gagged and threatened with de-registration if they honestly discuss a patient’s concerns and allow them to feel comfortable with the best decision for them (while keeping public health in mind).
I cannot accept that the public health response and messaging to the broader community has been so narrow. There appears to have been little to no effort in raising public awareness of the modifiable risk factors associated with severe illness and poor outcomes, let alone acting to reduce these risk factors. There appears to have been little to no messaging on ways to boost one’s natural immunity and improve overall health, leaving people in a better place to fight any illness if necessary.
Moreover, there appears to have been little to no emphasis on early treatment options during the ambulatory phase of the disease. Instead, we leave patients isolated at home with little to no advice or treatment and wait until they are so sick that they need to be hospitalised. I have asked my GP multiple times for updated advice over the past 18 months. I continue to be told that there is nothing we can offer for early treatment. Meanwhile, there is a plethora of emerging evidence from overseas that we cannot openly and honestly debate or trial.
I cannot accept that I need to live in a society where everyday citizens are banned from their workplace, attending their local library or getting a haircut unless they share their private medical information. There is no scientific or ethical justification for someone’s medical status to be linked to their ability to participate in society.
I cannot accept that schools are requiring children wear yellow wristbands to identify those who have mask exemptions or are unvaccinated so that they can be segregated from their peers. I know this to be true: my primary school-aged child has a mask exemption and was picked up from school wearing a yellow wristband.
When the medical profession and society decide to respect the rights and privacy of the individual again, I will consider returning to my profession. But for now, I flatly refuse to participate in this nasty and divisive two-tiered society that you have helped endorse. I will not “show my papers” to be able to work, let alone enter a facility or a building.
I quite simply will not participate in, nor accept the discrimination. You have failed me and every citizen of Australia.
An Australian Doctor
Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash.