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The AMA will speak up on asylum seeker health

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Doctors “must speak up” on the health care of asylum seekers, new AMA President Dr Michael Gannon has said.

Indicating the Government would continue to come under pressure over the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees being held in detention, the WA obstetrician said the issue was “core business” for the AMA.

“Asylum seekers and refugees, ethically and under law, are entitled to the ethical protections of the Australian Government, Australian law, the Australian people,” he said. “That means that doctors must speak up. That is a core ethical principle of medical care, that you speak up when patients are not being treated well.”

But he clarified that any comments he made regarding asylum seekers would be confined to issues affecting their health: “If you ever hear me talking about it, I’ll be talking about the health of asylum seekers, I won’t be making any comments about broader policy”.

Dr Gannon said the AMA needed to be “smart” and recognise that when it raises politically contentious issues, “there are risks to other elements of [its] agenda”.

“The AMA must always be fearless in speaking up on social issues, even if there is a cost. But we need to be smart, and recognise that there can be a cost to the relationship,” he said.

“I would love to build a more constructive relationship with the Turnbull Government if they’re re-elected, but we will speak up fearlessly when they produce bad policy. If they produce policies that aren’t good for the health of Australians, then we will criticise them.”

Adrian Rollins