Crisis in the Clinic: Doctors’ Battle for Advocacy

Crisis in the Clinic Doctors' Battle for Advocacy
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London (Parliament News) – Doctor groups urge reconsideration of regulations after GP’s removal for peaceful climate protests. Critics argue suspension undermines climate crisis advocacy. Concerns were raised over disciplinary practices.

Doctors groups are urging for acute consideration of the regulations for medical professionals who take peaceful immediate action on the climate crisis, which they state is the “greatest threat to global health” after a GP was discontinued from the register for non-violent protest.

Dr Sarah Benn, a GP from Birmingham, was removed from the medical register for five months on Tuesday by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service the disciplinary component of the General Medical Council (GMC), over her environment protests.

Is Peaceful Protest Grounds for Medical Discipline?”

The tribunal expressed that Benn’s fitness to practise as a doctor had been tainted because of misconduct. Benn, who is retired, has taken an interest in some peaceful protests since 2019.

Benn obtained conditional discharges after being sentenced for taking part in peaceful protests, including two violations of obstructing a highway. In 2022 she was imprisoned for 32 days for breaching a civil demand at Kingsbury oil terminal as part of a Just Stop Oil campaign.

Doctors groups were combined in criticising the suspension from the medical register. The Doctors’ Association stated: “Not all doctors subject to a custodial sentence having broken the law have been sanctioned by the MPTS. The MPTS can use its discretion.”

Do Climate Protests Impact Medical Practice?

The suspension of Benn revealed that the GMC would impose sanctions on doctors for presenting serious concerns about the threat to public health from the greatest threat to global health the world had noticed, the association said.

“Climate change, its effect on the planet, weather patterns, future health and even the survival of the human race is evidence-based,” it added.

“The profession has not been undermined by her actions, and the public is not concerned about one doctor trying to protect them and the planet but more by the inadequate response of the government and organisations, including the GMC, to our overwhelming and unprecedented climate crisis.”

How Did the British Medical Association react? 

The British Medical Association (BMA) stated many people would find it very difficult to comprehend that a doctor’s ability to practise medicine could be discontinued because of peaceful measures they take in protest of the climate crisis.

It called for critical consideration of the rules, which it stated meant a doctor was suspended for a penalty they had already received for taking interest in a legitimately peaceful protest.

“This ruling sends a worrying note to other doctors about the regulation of issues not directly related to patient care or their clinical skills, and introduces serious questions about the practices behind the handling of such cases,” the BMA said.

“The climate problem is also a health crisis and as such doctors are understandably concerned.”

Are Environmental Concerns a Doctor’s Responsibility?”

Benn described the tribunal that as a doctor she had a “moral duty to bring action”. She stated: “The climate emergency is a health crisis; not a potential future one, but here and now. If I understand all this and I choose to remain quiet, I am failing in my duties. I am breaching the advice in good medical practice to make my patients’ health my first problem.”

But the tribunal discovered the “overwhelming majority of the public would not favour breaking the law in the reprised way in which Dr Benn did, especially provided the impact, on the final event, to the wider public resources involved”.

Benn was the first of three GPs meeting disciplinary action by the GMC for a peaceful demonstration on the climate crisis. In a note to the GMC this week, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which includes the Royal Colleges of Medicine and medical journals, stated there was widespread dissatisfaction among doctors at Benn’s suspension from the medical register for Just Stop Oil protests.

Massimiliano  Verde

Massimiliano Verde is a journalist at Parliament News, He is covering Society and Culture News. Boasting a Master's Degree in Political Science, stands as a prominent figure in the Italian cultural landscape. His presidency of the Neapolitan Academy, a scientifically and sociolinguistically renowned group, attests to his relentless dedication to safeguarding and promoting Neapolitan language and culture. His activism and profound expertise have propelled him into the role of interlocutor for UNESCO as part of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), a prestigious acknowledgment highlighting the significance of his efforts in preserving the linguistic and cultural diversity of our planet.

Verde's fervent passion for the history and culture of Southern Italy has driven him to immerse himself in research, resulting in numerous essays and articles that delve into the peculiarities and beauties of the region. His commitment extends beyond academia, manifesting in ongoing dissemination activities aimed at acquainting the general public with the rich cultural heritage of the South. His endeavors transcend national boundaries, as evidenced by his participation in international conferences and collaboration with various foreign institutions, rendering him an ambassador of Southern culture on the global stage and fostering intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding.