muzzle medical free speech


On 12 October 2022, the Queensland Legislature, with bipartisan support, passed the National Health Practitioners Regulations 2022 and other law reforms legislation (pdf). Among other changes, the law gives bureaucrats new discretionary powers to pressure medical practitioners to uphold government health views.

Specifically, when the Health Ombudsman reasonably believes that a practitioner’s behavior, performance or health “poses a person at serious risk.” An official statement must be made to protect the health or safety of the public” in an appropriate manner. He or she may also “identify and provide warnings or information to individuals or medical services.” The Ombudsman enjoys immunity if its statements are made in good faith.

Before and after the adoption of this law, commentary has focused on the inherent threats to free (medical) speech.

For example, the Australian Medical Association, in a filing with the Queensland Health and Environment Commission, stated, “We do not support issuing public warnings before a court has completed its action. and can damage the reputation of the practitioner.”

The association also noted the potential long-term consequences of the ombudsman’s decision. related crimes. ”

Epoch Times photo
A nurse goes to assist a patient at the COVID-19 and influenza assessment clinic at Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia, May 12, 2020. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Similarly, the Australian Society of Medical Professionals (AMPS), in its submission to the Commission, noted that “the law publicly names and shames practitioners without defining how risk is to be interpreted.” We cannot support expansion.”

AMPS believes that: HARM OR DAMAGE CAUSED. ”

Importantly, underscoring the dangers of the law for free speech, bureaucratic powers facilitate the dissemination of critical and useful information to health officials “to conveniently silence the voices of experts.” helpful,” he said.

Delete Personal Medical Opinion

Professor August Zimmermann, comment Regarding the quadrant’s laws, the law “exposes health care workers to the threat of immediate suspension of their licenses for being inconsistent with public health directives and the government’s public health message.” It is used to manage healthcare workers by allowing wide discretion in action.”

He argues that the powers vested in the ombudsman override “concepts of natural justice and presumption of innocence, let alone due consideration of evidence put forward by highly qualified medical practitioners with dissenting opinions.” says there is.

This law could be used as a template by other states to ensure a uniform “domestic law” that affects Australian patients and harms their individual health.

If “the government becomes the sole authority for all health advice,” To tell “Unquestionable compliance will be accepted as the new standard of good medical practice,” said Kara Thomas, AMPS Executive Director.

Similarly, former UN Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Thakur said: To tell The bureaucratic elimination of “legitimate arguments about the pain of excommunication from medical professionals” represents a clear and present danger to public health.

These ominous warnings make it clear that doctors cannot act on expert opinion.

This situation violates article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to express his or her opinion without interference” and “the right to freedom of expression”. shall be

However, Article 19 also provides that this right is subject to “certain limitations” for the protection of national security or public health or morality. This provision is relied upon by law advocates to justify restricting the freedom of speech of health care workers.

Epoch Times photo
Medical staff perform testing at the COVID-19 testing center at Reactivating the Repat Hospital, Adelaide, Australia, March 11, 2020. (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

COVID-19 results

Of course, this legislation is an unfortunate but alarming result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It spawned an unprecedented wave of emergency legislation that clearly diminished the freedom of speech of healthcare workers who disagreed with the government’s explanation.

As restrictions on free speech can affect advice given to patients, so has the harmonious development of the doctor-patient relationship.

By empowering bureaucrats to make controversial health-related statements that tarnish a doctor’s reputation, the emergency power effectively suspends doctors’ freedom of speech for the purpose of protecting the health of Australians. increase.

Australia’s aging population and dissident practitioners have also been disproportionately affected by the Dobber spirit that infected the country during the pandemic.

Australia has become a dover or snitch’s paradise that in the past was considered decidedly non-Australian.

Catherine Bond reporting on her research on snitching make clear “In emergencies, the legal framework creates an environment that encourages ordinary Australians to report to authorities in what is seen as a public interest.”

she said: Crime Stoppers reports increased by almost 90%. ”

The apparent loss of free speech during and after the pandemic, facilitated by contested legislation such as Queensland’s new Health Workers Act, is the citation attributed to Thomas Jefferson in today’s society. It reveals an ongoing relevance. Freedom is eternal vigilance. ”

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Epoch Times.

Gabriel Moens


Gabriël A. Moens AM is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Queensland and has served as Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Murdoch University. In 2003, Moens was awarded the Australian Centennial Medal by the Prime Minister for his contributions to education. He has taught extensively in Australia, Asia, Europe and America. Moens recently published two novels, A Twisted Choice (2020) and The Coincidence (2021).