World Medical Association Council Meeting In Paris, 8-10 May 1997

The World Medical Association's 147th Council session ended in Paris yesterday after a four day meeting. Among the decisions reached were:


The meeting approved a resolution calling on doctors and researchers to abstain voluntarily from participating in the cloning of human beings until the scientific, ethical and legal issues have been fully considered by doctors and scientists and any necessary controls put in place.

Tobacco Products

The meeting approved an addition to the WMA Statement on the Health Hazards of Tobacco Products calling on all national medical associations and all doctors 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 any credibility to the tobacco industry. The Council also called for a ban on all advertising and sales promotion of tobacco products, except at the point of sale

Declaration Of Geneva

The meeting decided to survey its national medical association members about whether the Declaration of Geneva should be revised and updated. The declaration, approved in 1948, was itself a revision of the ancient Hippocratic Oath. The WMA decision at the weekend follows the recent publication by the British Medical Association of a revised wording of the Hippocratic Oath.

Palliative Care

A proposed new Declaration from the Belgian Medical Association is to be circulated to national medical associations for comment. The paper refers to excessive medical zeal possibly producing unnecessary suffering in terminal patients for whom no life saving therapy might be envisaged. It recommends that patients should be allowed to decide for themselves when they should receive palliative care and discontinue curative treatment, provided that in the opinion of three physicians there is no reasonable chance of recovery.

Medical Imbalance

The WMA Council has appointed a task group to draw up a proposed Statement examining the issue of medical imbalance and setting out ways to tackle the global problem in which some countries face a shortage of doctors while others have medical unemployment.

The Rights Of The Hospitalised Child

Further discussions are to be held about whether to broaden a proposed new Declaration on the hospitalised child to include the rights of all sick children and it was decided to consult national medical associations. There was a long debate on whether doctors should press for parents to have a right to paid leave during a child's hospitalisation.

The Rights Of The Unborn

A proposed Declaration from the Finnish Medical Association on the ethical duties of doctors relating to the rights of the unborn provoked a lengthy debate and it was finally agreed to postpone further discussion to await the result of a scientific review conducted by the American Medical Association.

Licensing Of Physicians Fleeing Prosecution For Serious Criminal Offences

The Council approved a proposed Statement from the British Medical Association calling on national medical associations to ensure that physicians against whom serious allegations of participating in torture, war crimes or crimes against humanity had been made were not able to practice until they had satisfactorily answered those allegations. The Statement will now be referred to the WMA General Assembly in Hamburg in November for adoption.

Doctors Involved In Torture

The meeting agreed to circulate for comment by national medical associations a proposed Statement supporting doctors who refuse to participate in or to condone the use of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

United Nations Rapporteur On The Independence And Integrity Of Health Professionals

A proposal for the establishment of a new UN post was approved for adoption by the Assembly. The new Rapporteur would be charged with the task of ensuring the free movement of doctors to provide medical treatment in war zones and in other situations of political tension.

New Members

Applications from the Medical Federation of Ecuador and the Malaysian Medical Association to join the WMA were endorsed and will now be referred to the Assembly in November for approval.

New Secretary General

The appointment of Dr Delon Human was approved (see earlier press statement).

Other Issues Discussed At The Meeting Included:

  • drug treatment of tuberculosis
  • the relative roles and responsibilities of the medical and pharmaceutical professions
  • improved investment in health care
  • guidelines for the quality assessment of health care
  • controlled prescription and delivery of heroin to addicts to opiate drugs