The Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has backtracked on comments made by its president, Dr. Roderick McRae, that people he deemed “COVID-19 deniers” and “anti-vaxxers” should opt out of taxpayer-funded health care.
In comments published in The Guardian, McRae said, “A whole lot of these people are passionate disbelievers that the virus even exists. And they should notify their nearest and dearest and ensure there’s an advanced care directive that says, ‘If I am diagnosed with this disease caused by a virus that I don’t believe exists, I will not disturb the public hospital system, and I’ll let nature run its course.'”
Responding to the comments, National AMA President Dr. Omar Khorshid wrote on Twitter that doctors will always provide care to patients and consider their right to make their own decisions, “even bad ones like not getting vaccinated,” he said.
“This includes the right to accept, or reject, advice regarding treatments and procedures, including life-sustaining treatments,” he added.
Citing the AMA Code of Ethics, which is rooted in the ancient Hippocratic Oath, Khorshid said doctors are guided to “provide care impartially and without discrimination on the basis of age, disease or disability, creed, religion, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, criminal history, social standing or any other similar criteria.”
The AMA Code of Ethics guides the behaviour of doctors and is the foundation of AMA policy. Doctors will always provide care to patients considering their right to make their own decisions, even bad ones like not getting #vacced.
— AMA President (@amapresident) October 21, 2021
AMA Victoria later responded to the backlash from the medical and general community, publishing a statement on Friday.
“By way of clarification, it was not the President’s intention to suggest that COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers should be denied treatment.
“Doctors will always provide care impartially and without discrimination.
“Dr McRae intended to make the point that COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers are at more risk of contracting COVID-19 than vaccinated members of the community. A portion are also, therefore, more likely to become seriously unwell.
“Dr McRae was suggesting that COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers may wish to consider updating their advance care directives so that, in the event they do contract COVID-19 and become seriously unwell but do not wish to be treated because it may be contrary to their views, medical professionals can respect their autonomy and wishes concerning medical care,” the statement read.
Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino also rejected McRae’s comments, saying that while he understood the sentiment, “that’s not the way we operate.”
“We need to care for every single Victorian,” Merlino told ABC radio on Friday.