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World Medical Association calls for more nations to sign treaty against nuclear weapons

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The World Medical Association has issued a plea to all nuclear armed and nuclear dependent States to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The treaty, which prohibits the development, testing, production, possession, stockpiling, use, or threatened use of nuclear weapons was signed in July by 122 non-nuclear weapon States.

The WMA is now urging all those States that have nuclear weapons, or rely on the nuclear weapons possessed by others, to also sign the treaty.

It opened for further signatures at United Nations in New York on September 20.

Other organisations joining the WMA in the call include the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the International Council of Nurses, and the World Federation of Public Health Associations.

All of the groups signed a joint statement welcoming the landmark treaty as “a significant forward step towards eliminating the most destructive weapons ever created, and the existential threat nuclear war poses to humanity and to the survival of all life on Earth”.

WMA President Dr Ketan Desai said: “Even a limited nuclear war would inflict a substantial death toll as well as causing cancers, chronic diseases, birth defects, and genetic damage.

“In addition, it would bring about catastrophic effects on the earth’s ecosystem. This could subsequently decrease the world’s food supply and would put a significant portion of the world’s population at risk of famine.

“We share the treaty’s conclusion that the elimination of nuclear weapons is the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances.

“The States that currently possess nuclear weapons or rely on the nuclear weapons possessed by others can and must completely and irreversibly dismantle the warheads, nuclear weapons programs and facilities, and cease all nuclear weapons related activities which threaten the security of everyone, including their own citizens.”

Two days before the treaty opened for further signatures the WMA marked its 70th anniversary and World Medical Ethics Day.

The WMA was founded on September 18, 1947, just one month after the
war crimes trial of German doctors in Nuremberg.

After the experiences of World War II, representatives of the medical profession decided it was necessary to establish a new international medical organisation to develop medical ethics and to cooperate globally.

The WMA was founded with 27 countries and held its first annual General Assembly in Paris in 1947. Today the Association has a membership of more than 100 national medical associations as constituent members from around the world. It has become the global platform to develop medical ethics, the rules of the profession.

Since 1947 it has developed ethical standards that are reflected in many national laws, international regulations and treaties.

In 2003 the Association decided to mark its anniversary by holding an
annual World Medical Ethics Day on September 18 to promote the presence of
ethics in medicine. Since then, national medical associations have
celebrated the day with various activities.

Dr Desai said the achievements of the WMA over the past 70 years had been enormous in promoting the highest standards of medical ethics in the profession.

Membership has grown significantly and the WMA’s many statements have become a central part of health policy around the world.

CHRIS JOHNSON

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