THE END OF MEDICAL FREE SPEECH IN QUEENSLAND

New legislation introduced in Queensland, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, will greatly enhance the government regulator’s powers for censoring doctors in Queensland.

The Bill grants APHRA new and unprecedented powers for coercively silencing doctors who stray from the officially mandated ‘narrative’ and preventing vital information ever reaching the ears of the public.

The new bill will overturn centuries of medical practice by replacing the principle that a doctor’s loyalty must, first and foremost, be to the well-being of their patient, and replacing it with a new guiding principle – upholding and safeguarding ‘public trust’ and ‘confidence’ in public health authorities.

The Explanatory Notes say the regulatory body will be free to take action against a doctor or health practitioner in any way they deem “necessary or convenient” to ‘safeguard’ public confidence and safety.

APHRA will also be able to publicly ‘name and shame’ doctors before they have been found guilty of anything.

This robs doctors of their right to the ‘presumption of innocence’, ‘natural justice’ and ‘due process’.

It also takes away their right to practice their profession without political harassment or interference.

Doctors should be free to engage in clinical debate on clinical issues to do with the effectiveness of treatment options and must be free to advise their patients honestly on any matter raised during a doctor-patient consultation.

If doctors aren’t allowed to discuss alternatives to standardised medical options with their patients, then the legal requirements for informed consent can’t be satisfied and the standard of patient-care will suffer.

If we aren’t careful, health protocols in Queensland will no longer be adopted based on experience and evidence-based medicine, but on the diktats of public health officials and regulators who have never treated a single patient in their lives.

By delegating such unlimited powers to AHPRA, the Government has virtually handed them a blank cheque to do whatever they like.

The Bill contains no clear avenues for appeal or redress for doctors unfairly targeted by AHPRA, even if subsequently cleared of wrongdoing.

It is important to note that AHPRA is an unelected, executive agency that answers to no-one.

This means that nothing they say or do is subject to questioning, verification or independent review by any jurisdiction.

APHRA must not be given the last word on what ‘truth’ in medicine is.  There must always be room for ‘dissenting’ views and debate.

Without that, we are no longer a democracy.

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