World Medical Association General Assembly Decisions
(24.10.2016) Delegates from more than 40 national medical associations attended the annual General Assembly of the WMA in Taipei from 19 to 22 October. Among the issues discussed were:
The recent bombing of hospitals in Aleppo was condemned as a violation of human rights. In an emergency resolution delegates demanded an immediate and impartial enquiry into the attacks and for action to be taken against those responsible. They urged all countries to ensure the safety of healthcare personnel and their patients in conflict situations. The meeting was told that since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, an estimated 270 health care facilities had been attacked and 760 health care workers had been killed.
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
Physicians and national medical associations are being encouraged to become more active in campaigning to end the practice of female genital mutilation, which is still a common practice in more than 30 countries. The Assembly revised WMA guidelines for physicians to make it clear there is no medical necessity for any such “surgery” which is often performed by unqualified individuals in unhygienic surroundings. Delegates said that FGM of any type is a form of violence and represents a lack of respect for the individuality, freedom and autonomy of young women and girls. Physicians must be prepared to intervene to protect girls. Medical associations should prepare guidance on how to manage requests to undertake this procedure, based on ensuring the girl is protected. This will include the use of local laws protecting children from harm and may include significant steps such as the involvement of police and other agencies.
Proposals to improve the care of elderly people throughout the world were approved. With life expectancy projected to reach 74 years by 2050, and in many countries 80 years and beyond, the WMA is calling for universal health care coverage to be provided to all, including elderly people. Delegates adopted a new policy statement designed to focus more support and attention on the health needs of the elderly. They said that all physicians should be appropriately trained to diagnose and treat the health problems of older people, which would mean mainstreaming ageing in the medical curriculum.
Occupational and environmental health and safety should be expanded to prevent and reduce occupational diseases, and injuries, and to protect the environment, delegates agreed. They supported a new policy document, stating that more than two million people die each year as a result of work accidents and occupational diseases. However, despite this, the proportion of work accidents and occupational diseases that are recorded and reported is extremely small. The Assembly proposed a package of measures to strengthen the role of physicians in preventing, diagnosing, treating and reporting work accidents and occupational diseases. These include better opportunities for employees with disabilities, and more protection for women, who often bear the brunt of the work-related burden.
Dr. Ketan Desai, a former President of the Medical Council of India and the Indian Medical Association, was installed as President of the WMA for 2016/17.
Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura, President of the Japan Medical Association, was elected President elect. He will take office in a year’s time to serve in 2017/18. Dr. Yokokura, a surgeon, has been President of the JMA since 2012 and has been President of Yokokura Hospital since 1990.
Dr. Andrew Dearden, a Welsh general practitioner and treasurer of the British Medical Association, was elected Treasurer of the WMA.
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