World Medical Association 49TH General Assembly - Nov. 10-14 1997: Summary


At the 49th World Medical Association General Assembly in Hamburg, which ended at the weekend, the following decisions were reached:*

Health Hazards Of Tobacco Products

The meeting approved an addition to its existing Statement calling on all national medical associations to refrain from accepting any funding from the tobacco industry and urging medical schools, research institutions and individual researchers to do the same, in order to avoid giving credibility to the tobacco industry. It also agreed to call for a ban on all advertising and sales promotion of tobacco products, except at the point of sale.

The document said there were three million deaths each year worldwide due to tobacco use and went on: 'Unless the current smoking trends are reversed, the number of deaths due to the use of tobacco is expected to rise to 10 million by the 2020s or early 2030s and 70 per cent of those will occur in developing countries'

Drug Treatment Of Tuberculosis

A new Statement was adopted by the Assembly warning that tuberculosis was becoming an increasing cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Recent World Health Organisation estimates were that 30 million people could die from TB over the next 10 years. The Statement declared: 'While many patients with TB are not diagnosed others are not treated effectively. There are many contributory reasons, including poor prescribing by doctors and poor patient compliance with treatment. TB is also a major threat to the health of HIV-positive persons and an increasingly common cause of death of persons with AIDs'.

The Statement called on all the WMA's national medical association members to support the WHO in promoting more effective management of TB.

Controlled Prescription And Delivery Of Heroin To Addicts To Opiate Drugs

The meeting decided to defer a decision on whether to call for the scientific evaluation of controlled heroin prescription to addicts to await reports from projects in Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. The Belgian Medical Association had called for a rigorously-controlled and monitored experimental scientific procedure to demonstrate the therapeutic benefit of controlled use of heroin.

Declaration Of Geneva/Hippocratic Oath

The British Medical Association agreed to withdraw a proposed revised text of the Declaration of Geneva after the meeting agreed that any changes should be minimal. The BMA will reconsider what amendments are necessary and report back to the WMA Council.

Continuous Quality Improvement In Health Care

The Assembly adopted a new Declaration setting out guidelines for physicians to assist them strengthen the pursuit of improvement in health care through continuous quality review practices. The document said that active participation by everyone in clinical audit and in quality review initiatives should be encouraged.

Other issues discussed at the meeting included:

  • Palliative Care
  • Telemedicine
  • Declataion of Helsinki
  • Licensing of Physicians Fleeing Prosecution
  • Improved Investment in Health care
  • Rights of the Unborn

    * Separate statements have been issued on:
  • The readmission of the China Medical Association
  • Prohibition of Access of Women to Health Care in Afghanistan and Prohinition of Practice by Female Doctors in Afghanistan
  • Economic Embargoes
  • Cloning and Human Dignity
  • Support for Doctors Refusing to Participate in the Use of Torture