Delegates from 57 national medical associations around the world attended the annual General Assembly of the WMA from 5 to 8 October. Among the issues discussed were:
Delegates reaffirmed their support for physician colleagues in Ukraine and condemned the Russian army’s bombing of Ukrainian civilians and hospitals, infringing medical neutrality in conflict zones. They called for
an end to hostilities and urged all parties to ensure that access to medical care is guaranteed to all victims, civil or military, without distinction. They also called on the international community and governments to come to the aid of all those displaced by the conflict.
The meeting expressed its deep concern at reports of violence against protesters in Iran, where many people are reported to have died, many more are said to have been detained and medical vehicles have been abused by Iranian authorities to bring protesters to detention. Delegates urged the Iranian authorities to fully adhere to its human rights obligations, including the right to peaceful demonstration, to respect the autonomy of physicians and in particular their ethical duty to provide care to anyone on the basis of medical need alone, and to ensure that healthcare equipment and facilities are used for health care purposes only.
Ethical Use of Social Media
New guidelines were agreed, stating that physicians should avoid any inappropriate use of social media networks, such as frivolous, insensitive attitudes or light-hearted opinions on medical matters. Delegates urged national medical associations to produce guidelines to combat misinformation, disinformation, and the promotion of pseudoscience and pseudo-therapy, all of which could result in negative health outcomes for patients and communities.
The Use of Telehealth
The Assembly issued a warning to patients and physicians to be discerning in their use of digital health and to be careful of the potential risks. It approved new guidelines for physicians, saying that the largely unregulated growth in the number and variety of digital health services could have patient safety and ethical implications. The guidelines make it clear that ‘face to face consultation should be the gold standard where a physical examination is required to establish a diagnosis, or where there is a wish on the part of the physician or patient to communicate in person’.
Dr. Osahon Enabulele, former President of the Nigerian Medical Association, was installed as the 73rd President of the WMA for 2022-23.
Dr. Lujain Alqodmani, a leading public health doctor from Kuwait, was elected unopposed as President elect of the WMA. She is the first Arab to be elected President and will take up her post at the WMA’s General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda in October 2023.
Dr. Tohru Kakuta (Japan) was elected unopposed as Vice-Chair of Council.
Dr. Jacques de Haller, President of the Swiss Association of General Practitioners and a former President of the Standing Committee of European Doctors, was elected Chair of the Associate Members.
Other policies adopted by the Assembly include guidance on discrimination against the elderly, physicians treating their relatives, assisted reproductive technologies, prison conditions and tuberculosis, and chronic diseases.
Policies adopted can be found on the WMA website: www wma.net