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27 Jun 2018

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone intervened in the case of a dying Afghan refugee on Nauru, calling on the Federal Government to allow the man to receive palliative care in Australia.

Amid Australia’s ongoing heightened debate over asylum seekers, the AMA called on the Government to put politics aside and provide the man the treatment he needed.

After learning that the required treatment for the 63-year-old with advanced lung cancer was unable to be provided on Nauru, Dr Bartone said he should be transported to Australia. The man had been officially recognised as a refugee.

The Government was insisting that the man, known simply as Ali, should be sent to Taiwan for treatment. But Dr Bartone said that was not a proper response from the Australian Government. 

“Ali is a member of the persecuted Hazara minority in Afghanistan and has been formally recognised as a refugee,” Dr Bartone said.

“He has advanced lung cancer. He needs significant palliative care services that he cannot receive on the island. This is not in dispute.

“The Australian Border Force has offered to transfer him to Taiwan. But this is not an appropriate management option. There is no Hazara community in Taiwan, he has no friends or family there, no-one to translate from his language, and no-one to perform the Shia Muslim rituals after his death.

“The AMA has always held that all people who are under the protection of the Australian Government have the right to receive appropriate medical care without discrimination, regardless of citizenship or visa status.

“They should be treated with compassion, respect and dignity. On any score – international obligations, conventions, respect, standards of clinical and ethical care – we must not fail to provide the requisite medical care on Australia’s watch.”

Dr Bartone repeated the AMA’s call for the establishment of a transparent, national statutory body of clinical experts, independent of Government, with the power to investigate and report to the Parliament on the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees in Australian care.

He welcomed the appointment of Dr Parbodh Gogna as the Australian Border Force’s new Chief Medical Officer and Surgeon General, but called on Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton to ensure that Ali received the care he needed in a compassionate, timely, and respectful manner.

The AMA’s Position Statement on Health Care of Asylum Seekers and Refugees (which can be found at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/health-care-asylum-seekers-and-refugees-2011-revised-2015) was released in 2011 and revised in 2015.

Its preamble states: “The Australian Medical Association affirms that those who are seeking, or who have been granted, asylum within Australia have the right to receive appropriate medical care without discrimination, regardless of citizenship, visa status, or ability to pay. Like all people seeking health care, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, or under the protection of the Australian Government, should be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity.”

CHRIS JOHNSON


Published: 27 Jun 2018