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AusDoc: A GP has been banned for climate activism — what are the implications for other doctors?

In 2022, Dr Sarah Benn, participated in a series of peaceful protests on fossil fuels within a prohibited buffer zone at the largest inland oil storage depot in the UK. During one such protest, Dr Benn was arrested along with others and was sentenced to 32 days in prison for contempt of court.

In April this year, Dr Benn’s case went before the UK Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), and her medical license was suspended for five months.

Drs Emma-Leigh Synnott and Richard Yin examine the professional responsibility and obligations of the medical profession to take action on climate change.

They write that the advocacy path is challenging, given the existential threat of climate change and doctors’ voices on the issue largely ignored (or gas-lit).

At this moment, however, they state that doctors do have a choice.

We can stand in solidarity and act to shift the narrative, so radical individual actions are not necessary.

We can mainstream our position on fossil fuels and stand up a public health campaign on fossil fuels that also warns of the harms of climate change.

We can also call for no new fossil fuel projects, and put a stop to the expansion of existing projects.

Dr Emma-Leigh Synnott is a consultant physician in rehabilitation medicine and the DEA WA chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia.

Dr Richard Yin is a retired GP and a board member of Doctors for the Environment Australia.

This pay-walled article was published in AusDoc on 22 May 2024.


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