Doctors Furious At Australian GP Body For Pissweak Marriage Equality Stance

UPDATE: In a statement released on Tuesday morning, Dr Bastian Seidel of the RACGP announced that the council supports marriage equality in Australia. In the statement, Dr Seidel acknowledged the “significant distress that a public vote on marriage equality has caused our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) members and patients.”

“When I became RACGP President a year ago, I clearly outlined that the RACGP could no longer afford to sit on the fence when it came to any issue that affected our members or our patients. I deeply regret that I did not meet my own standard,” he said.

Additionally, the council has pledged to release further materials to support GPs who are “providing care to their patients and communities who have experienced detrimental mental health impacts of the prolonged and unnecessary marriage equality debate.”

You can read the full statement here.

Doctors around the nation have expressed disappointment in the Royal Australian College Of General Practitioners (RACGP), after the president of the peak body declared that it will not publicly support marriage equality.

Per reports in Australian Doctor magazine, six other major medical colleges around Australia and New Zealand have spoken out in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote, saying that it will likely improve the overall health of the LGBT community.

When asked whether the RACGP would follow the lead of its colleagues, however, president Dr Bastian Seidel said that it would not, releasing a statement saying that the college would remain neutral on the issue, saying:

RACGP council discussed the issue of marriage equality at the August council meeting. Council acknowledged that the organisation has a diverse membership of more than 35,000 GPs with a range of views. Council believes that for this matter members should consider the issues involved carefully for themselves.

This statement is at odds with instructions previously issued by the RACGP on how GPs ought to engage with LGBT patients.

The college’s 2016 curriculum covers health care for LGBT individuals in some detail, noting that doctors play an “important role in advocating to reduce discrimination.”  The curriculum also reads:

Discrimination against sex, sexuality and gender diverse people has been directly linked with substance abuse, mental health disorders and suicide. Discrimination is experienced in a variety of forms including rejection by families of origin, abuse from peers and strangers, marginalisation from social groups and within work and educational settings, and exclusion from social and legal institutions. It is well recognised that the more discrimination faced, the poorer an individual’s health and wellbeing.

GPs were told in the 2016 curriculum that “acknowledging the role of the same-sex partner and/or chosen family in the individual’s life” is an important part of patient care, a statement that also fails to match up with the college’s current silence on equality.

Former AMA president Dr Kerryn Phelps said she was “surprised” by the stance, telling media that she is saddened that they have given up the chance to “make a difference” in the lives of patients:

The RACGP should be a thought leader and this is unequivocally a health issue so the RACGP should take a stand. We are the first port of call for our patients in distress and the current debate is causing a lot of distress in the LGBT+ community.

Dr George Forgan-Smith, a Melbourne GP who was physically assaulted last month while campaigning for marriage equality, has expressed disappointment in the college for failing to take leadership on the issue, saying:

I’m very disappointed that the representative college of my profession has not made a statement. The RACGP is really behind other colleges on these issues.

Numerous other doctors have been critical of the college for failing to take a stand, with many taking to social media to voice their frustration:

The RACGP has yet to make any further statement on the matter.