Delegates from more than 50 national medical associations attended the annual General Assembly of the WMA in Chicago from 11 to 14 October. Among the issues discussed were:
The Assembly agreed that the WMA would support any physician who faces political pressure to take part in forced feeding of hunger strikers against their ethical advice. In a revision of its policy on hunger strikers, the WMA says that national medical associations ‘have a responsibility to make efforts to prevent unethical practices, to take a position against ethical violations, and to investigate them properly’. Delegates agreed that where physicians are pressured to take part in torture, the WMA would protest internationally and publicize information about the case.
A policy of zero tolerance towards bullying and harassment in the medical profession was supported by the meeting. Delegates agreed a statement condemning bullying under any circumstances and encouraging all national medical associations members, medical schools, employers, and medical colleges to establish and implement anti-bullying and harassment policies.
WMA President, Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura said: ‘Bullying in the health workplace is entirely unprofessional and destructive, and should not be tolerated. It is time the profession took steps to prevent, confront, report and eliminate such behaviour at any level’.
Against a background of armed conflicts in many parts of the world, the Assembly issued a strongly worded statement reminding governments of the human consequence of warfare. It says that armed conflict should always be a last resort and physicians should encourage politicians, governments, and others in positions of power to be more aware of the consequence of their decisions to start or continue armed conflict. Efforts to avoid conflicts are often insufficient and inadequate and country leaders may not seek all alternatives. Delegates stressed that avoiding war and seeking constructive alternatives is always desirable.
ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
A call for ethical codes for recruiting health professionals was agreed in a bid to reduce inappropriate recruitment activities by states. The Assembly approved a new policy to combat the problems of a global maldistribution of health care workers. It declared that the global movement of workers, especially from less developed to better developed countries, is leading to continuing shortages. It said that ethical recruitment codes were needed for both governments and commercial recruitment agencies to ensure that countries did not actively recruit from other states.
A worldwide drink drive limit of no more than 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood was called for by the Assembly in a new drive to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. In a statement, the WMA says that key deterrents should be implemented for driving while intoxicated, including a strictly enforced legal maximum blood alcohol concentration for drivers of no more than 50mg/100ml, supported by social marketing campaigns and the power of authorities to impose immediate sanctions. WMA President Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura said: ‘The human cost of drunk driving across the world is appalling. The daily tragedy of death and injury caused by drivers who drink while over the limit is unforgivable. I hope that governments will act to reduce the drink drive limit’.
Guidance to physicians on dealing with child abuse were agreed. In a new policy document, the WMA says that child abuse in all its forms, including exploitation of children in the labour market, is a world health problem and that physicians have a unique and special role in identifying and helping abused children and their families. All physicians should be educated about the overriding importance of the welfare of children. They should act in the best interests of children in all of their contacts with children, young people, families, policy-makers and other professionals.
The Assembly condemned the abuses of labour standards, evidence of modern slavery and unethical working conditions that have been uncovered in the manufacture of many medical products around the world. In a new Declaration, the WMA calls for a fair and ethical purchasing policy for medical goods. It urges all its national medical association members to advocate for human rights to be protected throughout the global supply chains of products used in their healthcare systems.
Five new members were admitted – the Czech Medical Chamber, the Belarusian Association of Physicians, the Pakistan Medical Association, the National Medical Chamber of Russia and the Belize Medical and Dental Association. This increases the total number of medical associations and constituent members in the WMA to 114.
Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura, President of the Japan Medical Association, was installed as President of the WMA for 2017/18.
Dr. Leonid Eidelman, President of the Israel Medical Association, was elected President elect. He will take office in a year’s time to serve as President in 2018/19.
Separate press releases were issued on: Dr. Yokokura’s inaugural speech
WMA support for striking Polish doctors
Revised physician’s pledge
Cannabis as medicine
Policies adopted by the Assembly can be found on the WMA website: www wma.net