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NZMA Supports Doctors' Ethical Right

11 June 2002

The New Zealand Medical Association supports the professional duty and right of doctors to speak out about issues affecting the health and well-being of patients.

At its meeting today, the Board of the NZMA reaffirmed this right and duty in light of media reports about Dr Peter Dryburgh from Kaitaia Hospital who has commented publicly about the treatment of a young child with peritonitis, flown to hospital in Whangarei for treatment against the advice of clinicians in Kaitaia.

"The NZMA's Code of Ethics provides guidance to doctors in these types of cases," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams. "The Code's first principle of ethical behaviour is that doctors should consider the health and well being of their patient to be their first priority.

"There may be times when doctors feel they need to speak out about issues that affect the health and well being of their patients, and the NZMA strongly supports their professional duty and right to do so."

The Code of Ethics, which has been extensively revised in recent years and was re-released in March, contains other recommendations which apply to doctors facing these types of situations.

"The Code says the commercial interests of an employer, health provider, or doctor must not interfere with the free exercise of clinical judgement in determining the best ways of meeting the needs of individual patients or the community.

"It also says that rationing of resources must be open to public scrutiny and points of conflict identified and presented in a rational, non-biased manner to the public."

Dr Adams said the purpose of the Code, by encouraging doctors to meet ethical standards, is to protect the people of New Zealand.


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