WMA General Assembly

Delegates from national medical associations around the world joined a virtual annual General Assembly of the WMA from 11 to 15 October. Among the issues discussed were:

Physicians reminded society of their duty to provide migrants with appropriate medical care, based solely on clinical need, regardless of the civil or political status of the patient. They have been advised to speak out against any legislation and practices that prevent this duty. In revised guidance, the WMA calls for governments to reach agreements to fund the delivery of adequate and coordinated health services to migrant populations, including in refugee camps where the conditions of living make them more susceptible to the spread of disease and viruses.

Family Violence
Proposals to tackle family violence and its root causes were agreed by the Assembly. In a new policy document, the WMA described family violence as a grave universal public health and human rights problem. Its complex causes include a lack of basic education, lack of economic independence and poverty, mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, stress, rigid gender roles, poor parenting skills, and the perpetrator’s experience of maltreatment and family violence as a child. WMA President Dr. Heidi Stensmyren said: ‘We are urging governments to address these root causes and in particular the issue of health equity and gender inequality. We want to see incentives to encourage reporting of cases of family violence, secure private reporting mechanisms, safe havens and better data collection systems’.

Medical Liability
A new policy statement calls for an end to meritless and frivolous medical liability claims. The Assembly said medical workplaces should break the culture of blame that follows medical errors or adverse outcomes. The Statement said: ‘A culture of medical liability litigation is growing in some countries, increasing health care costs, restraining access to health care services, and hindering efforts to improve patient safety and health care quality’.

Sports Medicine
Sports medicine physicians have been warned not to administer or condone the use of performance enhancing drugs. In revised advice to the profession, the Assembly said that physicians must refuse to administer any substance or condone any treatment method which is not in accordance with medical ethics and which might be harmful to the athlete using it.

The Assembly reiterated its call for Taiwan to be granted observer status to the World Health Assembly. It urged the World Health Organisation to ensure Taiwan’s participation in all its health programs. And it called for Taiwan to be included as a full participating party to the International Health Regulations, allowing its critical contribution to the global health protection network. Dr. Stensmyren said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the urgency and importance of inclusiveness and leaving no one behind in the global health network. The WHO’s decision to deny Taiwan observer status is preventing the exchange of information to the detriment of Taiwan and its population, causing a gap in Taiwan’s domestic disease control network, with unavoidable implications for global health’.
The WMA’s call was strongly opposed by the Chinese Medical Association

New President
Dr. Heidi Stensmyren, President of the Swedish Medical Association, was installed as the 72nd President of the WMA for 2021-22. Dr. Osahon Enabulele, former President of the Nigerian Medical Association, was elected President elect of the WMA, and will take over as President for 2022-23 at the WMA Assembly in Berlin in October 2022.

Other Policies
Other policies adopted by the Assembly included guidance on photoprotection and ultra violet exposure from the sun, support for physicians in Myanmar, proposals to invest more money into surgery and anaesthesia care, and proposals to ensure that health is taken into account in trade negotiations.

Policies adopted can be found on the WMA website: www wma.net