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Doctors best placed to make health care decisions about asylum seekers

05 December 2019

The President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan, has expressed his disappointment at the Senate vote to repeal the Medevac legislation.

‘The Senate’s decision to support the repeal Bill is deeply disappointing to all of those Australians who believe medical experts are best placed to make decisions about the physical and mental health care of seriously ill individuals,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘The presidents of our leading medical colleges are united in their belief that every person should have access to necessary and appropriate medical care regardless of their immigration detention status.

‘We believe universal access to safe and timely health care is a basic human right and should not be compromised for anyone.

Associate Professor Allan said he had been surprised to hear politicians claim doctors shouldn’t have a say on whether someone receives medical treatment because they are not accountable to parliament.

‘These sorts of comments misunderstand the fundamental principles at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship and the responsibilities all doctors have for the health and wellbeing of both individuals and the wider community.

‘It is because of their particular knowledge and expertise that it is doctors – not members of parliament – who are entrusted with making decisions about medical care, and that is as it should be,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

Associate Professor Allan reaffirmed the important role the Medevac legislation and the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) had played in improving access to appropriate healthcare for asylum seekers during its short period of operation.

‘There is clear evidence that the IHAP was working to effectively reduce preventable suffering.

‘This Senate decision is still quite fresh, and there are more details that need to come out so we can assess its full implications for critically ill patients held in immigration detention.

‘We will be looking at this closer to see what further steps we can take to advocate for safe, equitable and timely access to treatment for asylum seekers held offshore,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

The RANZCP will also continue to work with government, leading medical colleges, other health practitioners providing care offshore, community groups and consumers to provide greater accountability and transparency around the quality of care made available to these most vulnerable and marginalised of people.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.