World Medical Association Council Meeting

The 209th WMA Council meeting was held in Riga, Latvia (April 26-28) and was attended by 150 delegates from almost 40 national medical associations.

The meeting discussed a number of issues:

Medically Indicated Abortion

As part of its procedure to review its policies that are ten years old, the Council continued its debate about the WMA’s abortion policy and reached agreement on a revised draft policy, which will be forwarded to the Association’s annual General Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland in October.

End of Life Questions

The meeting heard reports on the regional seminars on end of life questions, held as part of the Association’s review of its policy on physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. It was decided to hold a further open debate on the issue at the General Assembly’s scientific session in Reykjavik before reaching a decision on Association policy.

The Ethics of Telemedicine

Revised ethical guidelines for physicians when practicing telemedicine were discussed and a draft document was agreed. It will now be considered by the Association’s General Assembly. Delegates said that telemedicine – defined as the practice of medicine over a distance, in which interventions, diagnoses, therapeutic decisions, and treatment recommendations are based on patient data, and other information transmitted through telecommunication systems – created new and different ways for practicing medicine. The meeting agreed that this had the capacity to reach patients with limited access to medical assistance and had the potential to improve health care.

Medical Tourism

A draft Statement was agreed on proposed rules governing the growth of medical tourism, where patients travel across international borders to receive medical treatment. Delegates said that the WMA should have policy governing what was an emerging global industry for treatments ranging from dental care and cosmetic surgery to elective surgery and fertility treatment. The Statement will be forwarded to the General Assembly for approval in October.

Avian and Pandemic Influenza

A revised Statement providing guidance to national medical associations and physicians on how to plan for and respond to an outbreak of avian and pandemic influenza was agreed and will be considered at the General Assembly.

Other issues considered include biosimilar medicinal products, gender equality in medicine and professional autonomy of physicians.

A separate press release was issued on nuclear weapons.

General Assembly

The WMA’s next Council meeting and annual General Assembly will be held in Reykjavik, Iceland from Oct 3-6, preceded by and to run parallel with a scientific session on medical ethics from October 2-4.