Australian regulator misrepresents physician obligations

Claim that practitioner codes require referral disproved by Australian Medical Association

Sean Murphy*

According to a report in The Examiner, a representative of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Association told a Tasmanian legislative committee that physicians who object to a procedure for reasons of conscience are obliged by professional codes of ethics to refer patients to another physician.  Lisa McIntosh was addressing the Committee concerning a proposed Reproductive Health Bill.

Her assertion is contradicted by a submission by the Australian Medical Association Tasmania, which protested the section of the bill that would force objecting physicians to facilitate morally contested procedures by referral.  The AMA Tasmania submission included quotes from the AMA Code of Ethics and a document from the Medical Board of Australia Good Medical Practice to demonstrate that the draft legislation information paper falsely claimed that there was a duty to refer.

The Committee also heard from Catholic Archbishop Adrian Doyle, whose concerns about the proposed bill included the mandatory referral provision.