AHPRA must condemn Gaza ‘slander’: letter

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An open letter calls on AHPRA, the AMA and HCCC to condemn doctors making ‘unsubstantiated’ accusations and asks the AMA to voice concerns over the crisis.

A body of Australian and New Zealand medical practitioners has written an open letter to AHPRA and the AMA to raise “deep concerns” over behaviour of colleagues, which they deem to be in breach of both bodies’ codes of conduct.

The group asks that AHPRA and the AMA “clearly reiterate to their members that inappropriate, unsubstantiated, and slanderous comments, which risk reputations and livelihoods, will not be tolerated”.

They also call on the AMA to advocate for the end of the siege in Gaza and raise concerns over the humanitarian crisis.

“We have seen local support from the NSW Teachers Federation who released an Executive Statement on Middle East Conflict on 17 Oct 2023 and await the same from our medical association,” they write.

The letter outlines the duty of care of doctors to society to “accept a share of the profession’s responsibility to society in matters relating to health and safety of the public” and “maintain the utmost respect for human life”.

“In recent weeks, we have been horrified to witness the mass killing of innocent civilians in Israel and Palestine, a brutal blockade and siege, and an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis,” the letter says.

“The conflict has taken thousands of lives, and injured thousands more.

“It disproportionately affects vulnerable populations such as children, elderly, and pregnant women.”

According to the latest UN relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East report from 21 October, as outlined in the letter, 4137 people in Gaza have been killed since 7 October, including 1661 children, 1400 people have been killed in Israel and 82 people have been killed in the West Bank.

“Our colleagues in Gaza are providing care in the direst of circumstances, under military bombardment, their lives and those of their families under threat, and cut off from food, water, and fuel,” the letter says.

It outlines statements from WHO, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the UN expressing grave concerns over targeting of civilians in Gaza.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that ‘evacuation orders by Israel to hospitals in northern Gaza are a death sentence for the sick and injured’,” the letter read.

“On October 13, 2023, the United Nations (UN) has stated there have been ‘attacks on healthcare facilities and health workers, threats against humanitarian workers, and a draconian siege that has cut off access to water, fuel, medicine, electricity, communications, and essential humanitarian supplies’.

“In such dire circumstances, with catastrophic loss of life, our moral, ethical, and professional obligations are to use voices to highlight the plight of the people in this humanitarian crisis.”

The letter expresses respect and “strong support” for advocacy for civilian hostages from Israel, stating that “any loss of innocent civilian lives is to be condemned, without condition”.

Outlining the incidents believed to violate the AMA code of ethics and the AHPRA code of conduct, the letter says doctors referencing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza in social media posts have been called “disgraceful, shameful, overly woke, dangerous, disgusting, threatening, a liar, anti-Semitic (for expressing sympathy for the plight of ALL those affected in the blockade) and unfit doctors”.

It says colleagues have expressed shame that they practise medicine with the signatories, raised accusations of supporting “the murder of Israelis” and “subtle accusations of those discussion the situation in Gaza as ‘terrorist’ sympathisers”.

“Furthermore, there have been instances of anti-Arab sentiment, e.g., ‘if only the Arabs loved their children more than they hated Jews’ which has left many Arab-identifying doctors feel concerned for their safety, and we are concerned for the safety of Arab-identifying patients in these doctors’ care.”

Some signatories have been threatened with reports to AHPRA for their advocacy, leaving them “deeply distressed, threatened and extremely unsafe”, it says, describing these as “vexatious” threats aimed at causing harm rather than rallying for patient safety.

“These behaviours are in violation of AHPRA’s policy on social media which outlines the need to communicate professionally and respectfully with or about patients, colleagues, and employers.”

The signatories have chosen not to formally report colleagues to the HCCC, AHPRA or take legal action as “the current situation in Israel-Gaza is a deeply distressing time for all individuals”.

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