I’m a doctor. I’ve been a target of cyber-abuse for 6 years. Its time for our laws to change.

Yes its true. I’ve been cyber-abused for 6 years. And I’m not alone.

Daily, doctors, health care professionals and other people are being abused, bullied, harassed and defamed online. These actions are unacceptable and remain unlegislated against, placing people, our health care professionals, in vulnerable positions of harm and potential harm, every moment.

As a doctor in our training 20 years (ish) ago, most of us knew nothing about social media, because, well, it didn’t exist. However, with the rise of the internet and social media the world has become a very different place.

We are fortunate in this society that we have laws that legislate against people causing direct harm to people through for example physical abuse, which is known as assault, or other acts of violence or murder or rape for example. Such acts that bring about gross harm to people ought rightly to be legislated against.

When someone physically assaults you, it is a one-off event,  defined by time, contained by the physical contact, even though the scars both physical and emotional can live for sometime until they are healed. Of course, assaults can be repeated, but the period of each assault is limited by time of physical contact and the physical presence of the person assaulting you.

However, with the unregulated and unlegislated internet, someone can abuse you online and the abuse is there 24 hours a day, in the work place, in your home, in your car, in the bathroom, everywhere, every moment of the day. There is nowhere you can go to escape the abuse as it is permanently there, for all to see, not just you. And as we know, abuse is there to incite others to further abuse and bring about harm, so it makes sense to consider that cyber-abuse is the modern day plague of public health. It is permanent 24/7 abuse, and you never know where the blow is going to come from or when.

At present in our unregulated internet anyone, anywhere, can write whatever they want about you, under the cover of anonymity, and even if they are not anonymous they can still write whatever they want about you as there is zero accountability for abusive actions online.

Despite the fact that most of us spend practically 24 hours online and much of our lives are online and we go online to research things, after 10 years of ‘social’ media, we still do not have appropriate legislation to prevent harm coming to people from the online environment. Continue reading

Open Letter to the Medical Board of Australia: human rights violations in the proposed code of good medical practice

In August 2018, Miranda Devine, a journalist, let the world know that proposed changes had been made to the Australian doctors code of good medical practice. We discovered that submissions were called for but were closing in just a few days. Changes that were being proposed intended to even more thoroughly clamp down and limit freedom the doctors have as ordinary people to express in public. Interestingly, most doctors were not aware of the proposed changes that were being made.

Here follows the letter that I wrote to them in response to their call for general comments:

Dear Medical Board,

I’m writing in response to the proposed changes to the medical code of good medical practice. I am the first person to stand up and say that we need a code of good medical practice, one that equally supports us as doctors and people as patients.

I regret to say that the current code of good medical practice does not perform such a function in its existing role, nor its revised form and in fact the revised form raises even further concerns regarding the protection of the fundamental human rights that all doctors as people ought to have honoured. It is our duty as a profession to take care of the people in the profession and people who seek the support of the profession equally so, as whilst we consider people disparate and separate then we are not supporting the health and well-being of the all, and this is patently seen in the statistics of ill health and misery that affect the medical profession. We as doctors who know about the association of cause and effect and environmental medicine scientifically know that there is no such thing as truly random. We all know there are occupational hazards related to poor working conditions which include the entire systems that people work in. Doctors, too, as people are affected by the systems they work in and their ill health reflects the poor health of the systems they are in.

The Code of Good Medical Practice reflects such a system as it is a foundation by which doctors are investigated and prosecuted. Continue reading

My Health Records. Whose records are they anyway?!

E Health Record adj

My Health Records. The name suggests that they are the record of the person about whom the records are being made. You. Me. But, is this really the case?

If the records were truly ‘yours’ or ‘mine’, then why are they compulsory with a huge rigmarole to go through to get out of them known as ‘opt out’?

We operate under the premise of freedom of choice in this country. However, it has been reported that once a record has been created, even if you opt out, the data will still be kept. To have a system where it is opt-out and a record is automatically created for all people and from which data cannot be deleted even if a person opts out of the system is a matter that fundamentally violates freedom of choice and autonomy.

Why keep data if the records are voluntary and the ownership of the patient?

What are the hidden agendas here?

There certainly are benefits to the notion of a shared health record. Patient convenience, results easily available for all carers who access the record. But we need to question, what data is being stored, and why, and what data is being and will be accessed, and by whom? Continue reading

Are doctors allowed to have freedom of speech? Or do we need to be thought policed?

hes got an opinion

Recently the code of practice of doctors proposed to restrict freedom of speech for doctors. Of course, such terms were not directly used in the proposition of the code, but in the newly introduced section of professionalism it stated that:

“Community trust in the medical profession is essential. Every doctor has a responsibility to behave ethically to justify this trust. The boundary between a doctor’s personal and public profile can be blurred. As a doctor, you need to acknowledge and consider the effect of your comments and actions outside work, including online, on your professional standing and on the reputation of the profession. If making public comment, you should acknowledge the profession’s generally accepted views and indicate when your personal opinion differs. Behaviour which could undermine community trust in the profession is at odds with good medical practice and may be considered unprofessional”

Where are the limitations in such a statement? And when is that possible, on twitter?!

When say, on twitter when discussing politics, or the finer principles of knitting or ironing – or football  – can we deliver the professions ‘generally accepted views’, and, why should we?

Who gets to determine the professions ‘generally accepted views’? And who should?

And since when does having a medical degree mean that you are no longer allowed to contribute to or participate in public debate unless it is ‘profession sanctified and sanctioned’?

Are we to now as professionals seek written permission from the board for any opinions that we have and espouse in public? On any topic? This is madness! And this is exactly what the wording of this section entails.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right that is available to everyone, and it is there for a reason.

Continue reading