WMA General Assembly

At its annual General Assembly in Sun City, South Africa (October 11-14), attended by almost 200 delegates from more than 40 countries, the World Medical Association discussed a number of issues, including the following:

International Code of Medical Ethics
A revised Code was adopted, reflecting changes in medical ethics in the last 25 years. The revisions increase the emphasis on the rights of patients to accept or refuse treatment and include a new paragraph stating the physician's obligations towards not only the patients but also the patients' community. The Code, originally adopted in 1949, was revised in 1968 and 1983.

A new statement on obesity was adopted. This expressed concern that excessive television viewing and video game playing are impediments to physical activity among children and adolescents in many countries. It declared that obesity is one of the most important health issues facing the world, affecting all countries and socio-economic groups and representing a serious drain on health care resources, and it urged physicians to advocate that reducing obesity should be a priority.

Avian and pandemic influenza
A Statement was adopted calling for physicians to be more involved in the pandemic planning for avian flu. Delegates urged the WMA to communicate to the World Health Organisation its capabilities and the capabilities of its National Medical Association members to provide a credible voice that can efficiently reach many practising physicians. The Statement warned that the odds were 'great' that another pandemic would occur and the WMA could provide timely evidence-based control measures to countries with no or limited up-dated information about pandemics.

The Assembly agreed that the WMA should continue communication with the Chinese Medical Association on ethical issues. It accepted an invitation from the Chinese Medical Association for a meeting and agreed that this should be held at a mutually acceptable venue and should discuss the ethical policies of the WMA and other items of general medical interest.

Air Travel
Grave concern that adequate in-flight safety systems for babies and small children have not been implemented by the airline industry was expressed by the meeting. A resolution was adopted calling for airlines to provide safe, thoroughly tested and standardised child restraint systems and for national legislators and air transportation safety authorities to make this compulsory. The meeting also expressed concern about the lack of diagnostic and therapeutic materials for all passengers and called for airlines to equip their planes with a standardised set of medical emergency materials and drugs. Delegates called for legislation to provide immunity from legal action to physicians who provide emergency assistance in in-flight medical incidents.

Further policies
Further policies were approved on adolescent suicide, tuberculosis, access to health care, terminal illness and organ transplants. Full texts of all policies are available on request and will be itemised on the WMA's website.

Applications for membership were accepted from the Medical Associations of Samoa, Namibia and Somalia.

President Elect
Dr Jon Snaedal, associate professor of geriatrics from Iceland, was elected president for 2006-7. He takes up his post at the WMA's annual Assembly in Copenhagen in October 2007.

Separate press releases were issued on:

  • Dr Arumugam's inaugural speech as President
  • Combating HIV/AIDS
  • Revised guidance on the management of hunger strikers