Doctors For Refugees Members' Publications

Doctors for Refugees Members Publications

AMA NSW- 2018


Dr Barri Phatarfod, GP and President of Doctors for Refugees, urges medical professionals to fight for the healthcare needs of asylum seekers and refugees.

Politics should never compromise healthcare.

This was the overriding message from the World Medical Association at its inaugural meeting in 1947, when in the aftermath of World War II, documented gross human rights abuses perpetrated by medical practitioners at the behest of their government were revealed.

Many doctors also have this message reinforced on a daily basis, as anyone who has worked in the prison system will agree. Our job, our duty – our very oath – requires us to put aside personal views and treat the patient as best we can.

So what to make of the current situation in Australia regarding asylum seekers and refugees when the politics spill over into our domain, telling us how and whom we can treat because of a political agenda?

Read Full Article here.

Sydney Morning Herald: Dec 6, 2016 Opinion

Remembering Hamid Khazaei: the young detainee failed by Australia's 'outstanding care'. Barri Phatarfod

The last place most doctors want to be is in a coroners court.

For these two weeks, however, I am attending the coronial Inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei​ – not as someone whose own actions will be scrutinised, but as a representative of Doctors for Refugees, an organisation of volunteer doctors in Australia that advocates for fair and appropriate healthcare for people in Australia's immigration detention system.

Hamid Khazaei, an Iranian national, died after a cut foot he sustained while in detention on Manus Island became infected in late August 2014.

Despite numerous requests from the doctors for his evacuation, he was not transferred to Brisbane until he had had several heart attacks and was in the early stages of brain death. Hamid's life support was turned off on September 5 this year and he was pronounced deceased. He was 24 years old.

That a previously healthy 24-year-old could die while under what then minister Scott Morrison subsequently described as "outstanding care" seems unthinkable. We all know someone like this young man – healthy, fit, perhaps enjoying university life or getting married at the same time Hamid was writhing in agony, strapped to a stretcher on a Papua New Guinean airport tarmac and slowly dying under the midday sun while government agencies argued about who was responsible for his treatment. I wonder if his death would have been easier to endure if Hamid had been elderly or suffering from some chronic medical condition. Quite possibly, as we simply don't want to acknowledge the hideous truth: that this young man died because our government – or those to whom it outsources healthcare – has a cavalier disregard for the welfare of those it imprisons.

Read full article here:

Reprinted with kind permission of SMH

D4R Committee and BMJ Board member, Dr David Berger writes thought-provoking editorials and even debates Australian refugee issues in the BMJ: 

Published Feb 19 2016, BMJ 2016;352:i996


When doctors start civil disobedience it’s time to take notice


Australia must repeal provisions of an act that can imprison doctors for doing the right thing

Paediatricians at the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane are now entering the sixth day of their protest against the Australian government’s intention to send the young baby of asylum seeker parents back to a refugee detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru.1 They believe that the centre cannot provide a safe environment for her, an assertion that is backed by ample evidence(2,3). These doctors risk up to two years’ imprisonment under the 2015 Border Force Act for their actions(4), and yet in seeking to ensure the safety of their patient they are doing nothing more than following their own ethical code.


Keep reading the original article 

Published March 22 2016, BMJ 2016;352:i1600:


Should doctors boycott working in Australia’s immigration detention centres?


However well intentioned, working in detention centres amounts to complicity in torture, says David Berger, but Steven Miles thinks that there are better ways to take action.


Read the article and listen to the debate on the original site

Dr Michael Gliksman: D4R Committee member, NSW AMA Councillor and past AMA NSW Vice-President's article in NSW Doctor, concerning Refugees in the MJA Insight begins:


 “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”... see more (with thanks to NSW AMA for the reprint)

Published May 28 2015, BMJ 2015;350:h2907:


Refugees: time for moral leadership from the Western democracies


Australia sets a disgraceful example in its treatment of refugees


Any observer of today’s spiraling refugee crises in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia must agree with Hegel that “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” At the Evian conference of 1938, the US encouraged representatives of 32 nations to find a solution to the Jewish refugee crisis in Europe but refused to relax its own, severely limited refugee quotas, as did Britain.


Read the article on the BMJ site


Medical Students' Perspective: D4R Committee members and AMSA representatives Nicky Betts and Brian Fernandes discuss the importance of upholding ethics in providing healthcare:

"As future healthcare professionals, medical students are stakeholders in all of the same health issues that doctors are. For many of us, the prime impetus behind our desire to practice medicine involves an essential need to leave the world a better place. To achieve this, a broad spectrum of inequalities must be overcome, such that all people truly have access to the fundamental human right of health.


One of the most glaring inequalities in Australia is our behaviour towards refugees and asylum seekers.


In our youth, many of us are idealistic. But is it idealistic to dream that refugees and asylum seekers should be treated like people? That Australia should uphold our promise as a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention? That our rich, spacious nation can be accommodating to individuals fleeing persecution rather than locking them up in indefinite, offshore detention; exacerbating already serious mental health issues? 


To those of us who say no, Doctors For Refugees offers a current and future outlet for our outrage. Whilst medical student programs such as, chiefly, AMSA Global Health's "Crossing Borders For Health" focus on refugee and asylum seeker health, they do not have the same scope as Doctors For Refugees. Involvement in D4R allows us to engage in higher level advocacy whilst retaining our youthful, enthusiastic voice for change ensuring that "health is a human right" for all."