World Medical Association General Assembly

(18.10.10) The annual General Assembly of the World Medical Association was held in Vancouver, Canada from October 13 to 16 and was attended by physician representatives from 50 national medical associations. Among the issues discussed were:


National medical associations were urged to support and promote the right of all people to receive medical care on the basis of clinical need alone and to speak out against legislation and practices that are in opposition to this fundamental right. In a statement revising its policy, the WMA said that refugees, including asylum seekers, refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, as well as internally displaced persons in all regions were among the most vulnerable in society and international codes of human rights and medical ethics declared that all people were entitled without discrimination to appropriate medical care. Physicians could not be compelled to participate in any punitive or judicial action or to administer any non-medically justified diagnostic treatment, such as sedatives to facilitate easy deportation from a country.


The meeting warned that chemical contamination of the environment continued to exert harmful effects on global public health. It agreed a new statement urging national medical associations to press for legislation to reduce chemical pollution and human exposure to chemicals. Physicians should support the phasing out of mercury and other chemicals in health care devices and products and should support legislation to require an environmental and health impact assessment before the introduction of any new chemical or industrial facility. In addition, patients should be informed about the importance of safely disposing of medicines that were not consumed, and effective and safe systems should be developed to collect and dispose of these drugs.

Dr. Edward Hill, Chair of Council of the WMA, said: ‘As we have seen from recent environmental disasters, the public continues to be a great risk from chemical contamination. Governments have the primary responsibility to protect the public's health from these hazards and our job as the World Medical Association, on behalf of the world's physicians, is to highlight the human health risks and to recommend action.'


Revised policy on family violence was approved, setting out proposals for increasing awareness and involvement of the issue among physicians, including the need to oppose violent practices such as dowry killings, honour killings and the practice of child marriage.


A working group was set up to examine organ procurement, including the issues of transplantation from executed prisoners, the commercialisation of organ transplants, presumed and other systems of consent and related issues.


The meeting agreed to help increase the involvement of junior doctors in the WMA. An Associated Members platform for junior doctors to get involved was agreed, so that issues relating to junior doctors, such as safe working hours, post graduate training and doctors' migration, could be more widely discussed within the Association.


Two new associations were admitted to membership of the WMA - the Medical Association of Mozambique and the Serbian Medical Chamber.


Dr. Wonchat Subhachaturas, President elect of the Medical Association of Thailand, was elected President for 2010/11 and becomes the first doctor from Thailand to hold the post. He is a neurosurgeon who did his medical training in Bankok and worked for many years at the city's Central Hospital before moving to Charoenkrung Hospital where he became Director. He was deputy secretary of the Bankok Metropolitan Administration and currently works at the Thai Health Professional Alliance Against Tobacco.

Dr. José Liuz Gomes do Amaral, President of the Brazilian Medical Association, was elected President-elect. He will become the third Brazilian to become President when he takes up the post at the Association's annual Assembly in Montevideo, Uruguay next year. Dr. Amaral is an anesthesiologist and specialist in critical care in São Paulo, where he works at Santa Helena Hospital. He is also Chairman of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Discipline at the Surgery Department, at Sao Paulo Federal University.

Note: Separate news releases have been issued on prescribing and violence against women and girls.