18 June 2018

Flood of support for GP’s refugee petition

Ethics TheHill

A Sydney GP’s petition for the government to bring a terminally ill refugee from Nauru to Australia for palliative care has been extended until midnight tonight.

Less than three days after it was launched at midnight on Friday, the appeal addressed to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and his department had attracted more than 1250 doctors’ signatures as of Monday morning.

Dr Sara Townend, who practises on Sydney’s northern beaches and has an adult and paediatric palliative caseload, launched the petition after becoming “incensed” at media reports of the case.

“I have never done anything like this before, but I wanted to put up my hand as a GP and an Australian,” Dr Townend told The Medical Republic.

From media reports, the 63-year-old Hazara man from Afghanistan, who has terminal lung cancer and has lost the use of an arm, had a very poor prognosis, she said.

“I would be very concerned about how long he has to live.”

Australia has recognised the man as a legitimate refugee, and acknowledged he needed expertise beyond what was available on Nauru, Dr Townend says in the petition.

The Australian Border Force had offered to send the dying man to Taiwan, but he had refused because he did not want to die in isolation without anyone from his community, she says.

“If he remains on Nauru, he faces a potentially catastrophic death, without medical expertise to ease his pain and symptoms. This is no way to die.

“His only chance of a good death is to come to Australia so that he can have both community and medical expertise.”

Dr Townend said she extended the deadline by 24 hours to give as many doctors as possible the opportunity to sign.Link to petition:  https://bit.ly/2JYrh4Z