October 20, 2017
Delegates from more than 50 national medical associations attended the annual General Assembly of the World Medical Association (WMA) in Chicago from 11 to 14 October. Some of the rights-related issues discussed were hunger strikes, armed conflict, access to health care, child abuse, and fair medical trade.
The Assembly agreed that the WMA would support any physician who faces political pressure to take part in forced feeding of hunger strikers against their ethical advice. In a revision of its policy on hunger strikers, the WMA says that national medical associations ‘have a responsibility to make efforts to prevent unethical practices, to take a position against ethical violations, and to investigate them properly’. Delegates agreed that where physicians are pressured to take part in torture, the WMA would protest internationally and trpublicize information about the case.
Against a background of armed conflicts in many parts of the world, the Assembly issued a strongly worded statement reminding governments of the human consequence of warfare. It says that armed conflict should always be a last resort and physicians should encourage politicians, governments, and others in positions of power to be more aware of the consequence of their decisions to start or continue armed conflict. Efforts to avoid conflicts are often insufficient and inadequate and country leaders may not seek all alternatives. Delegates stressed that avoiding war and seeking constructive alternatives is always desirable.
Access to health care
A call for ethical codes for recruiting health professionals was agreed in a bid to reduce inappropriate recruitment activities by states. The Assembly approved a new policy to combat the problems of a global maldistribution of health care workers. It declared that the global movement of workers, especially from less developed to better developed countries, is leading to continuing shortages. It said that ethical recruitment codes were needed for both governments and commercial recruitment agencies to ensure that countries did not actively recruit from other states.
WMA Statement on Access to Health Care (revised)
Guidance to physicians on dealing with child abuse were agreed. In a new policy document, the WMA says that child abuse in all its forms, including exploitation of children in the labour market, is a world health problem and that physicians have a unique and special role in identifying and helping abused children and their families. All physicians should be educated about the overriding importance of the welfare of children. They should act in the best interests of children in all of their contacts with children, young people, families, policy-makers and other professionals.
WMA Statement on Child Abuse (revised)
The Assembly condemned the abuses of labour standards, evidence of modern slavery and unethical working conditions that have been uncovered in the manufacture of many medical products around the world. In a new Declaration, the WMA calls for a fair and ethical purchasing policy for medical goods. It urges all its national medical association members to advocate for human rights to be protected throughout the global supply chains of products used in their healthcare systems.
Other rights-related policies adopted include:
- WMA Declaration of Geneva – “Physician’s Pledge” (revised)
- WMA Statement on the Role of Physicians in Preventing Exploitation in Adoption Practices
- WMA Resolution on Prohibition of Forced Anal Examinations to Substantiate Same-Sex Sexual Activity
- WMA Statement on HIV/AIDS and the Medical Profession (revised)
Source: News post WMA, 19 October 2017
All policies adopted by the 2017 Assembly can be found on the WMA website: www.wma.net/policy