Physician Leaders Urge Governments To Protect Health Care

(20.04.2015) The World Medical Association is urging governments around the world to ensure that several major trade agreements they are negotiating will protect, promote and prioritize public health and the provision of health care. The WMA has also expressed grave reservations about the level of secrecy surrounding discussions on the agreements, which it described as anti-democratic.

At its Council meeting in Oslo over the weekend, WMA leaders approved an emergency resolution which welcomed the aim of trade agreements to produce economic benefits, but demanded firm assurances over four new agreements - the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

The resolution added that a proposed mechanism for investors to bring claims against governments could be used to challenge evidence-based public health laws including tobacco plain packaging and could threaten tobacco control, alcohol control, regulation of foods and beverages, access to medicines, health care services and environmental protection and climate change improvements. Such challenges may undermine efforts to improve health, tackle the social determinants of health and ultimately harm patients.

WMA President Dr. Xavier Deau said: ‘We are asking our national medical association members to urge their governments to ensure that these trade agreements do not interfere with governments’ ability to regulate health and health care, or to guarantee a right to health for all. We want governments to oppose any provisions and mechanisms which would compromise access to health care services or medicines.

‘The negotiation of these agreements has been one of the best kept secrets of our time. Negotiating documents are withheld from the public and parliaments. While this secrecy continues, the medical profession has every right to be cautious and suspicious. These agreements must not interfere with governments’ ability to regulate health or health care or to guarantee a right to health for all’.