A Queensland GP who spearheaded last year’s “No” campaign against same-sex marriage is the target of a discriminatory conduct investigation by AHPRA after he retweeted two posts by a conservative political candidate.
Dr David van Gend told The Medical Republic he was speaking out about the disciplinary action because he wanted to draw attention to the regulator’s bid to “expand its powers” through an review of the code of conduct for doctors.
“The only reason I went public on this was in order to get attention for the board’s grab for further power, to essentially censor and coerce conformity among doctors even in their private political involvement, which I think is an appalling thing,” the Toowoomba GP said.
AHPRA has already come under fire from the AMA and other parties over vague, confusing and possibly contradictory proposals in the ongoing review.
According to an AMA spokesperson, the organisation has taken note of several members’ concerns in relation to the revised draft of Good Medical Practice.
Among them were concerns about amendments to Section 2.1 “that could be seen as stifling doctors’ right to publicly express both personal and professional opinions, while also undermining doctors’ contribution to the diversity of public opinion, debate and discourse”.
“As with any private citizen, doctors are subject to the law in regards to the public expression of opinion – for example, anti-discrimination legislation, defamation, et cetera,” the AMA spokesperson added.
AHPRA informed Dr van Gend of the discriminatory conduct notification against him three months after he reposted two tweets by Conservative Party candidate Lyle Shelton in April.
Both tweets are still visible online.
In the first, Mr Shelton posted a selfie of himself with Ryan T. Anderson, the American author of a book titled When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, calling it a “must read for anyone trying understand how to push back on radical gender indoctrination of our children”.
The second was of an article by News Ltd columnist Miranda Devine, alleging that same-sex marriage would lead to “gender-fluid teaching” in schools and the gay lobby had lied about it during last year’s postal vote on same-sex unions.
The complainant alleged the GP was “presenting as a medical practitioner and providing information that is ‘clearly not medically, psychologically, nor scientifically based’ and not promoting public health”.
Dr van Gend, who was a spokesman for the “No” campaign against same-sex marriage as leader of the Australian Marriage Forum and is a critic of the Safe Schools program for LGBTI youth, was given until last Thursday to respond to the complaint.
He told TMR the regulator’s acceptance of the complaint was an “own goal” by AHPRA.
He had sent a letter to Health Minister Greg Hunt saying “If a GP can be taken to the Medical Board simply for retweeting without comment two tweets by a Senate candidate – an article by a top journalist and a book by a top scholar – then the board is out of control”.
He also said he knew of hundreds of doctors who opposed the regulator’s proposed conduct reforms.
AHPRA was trying to set itself up as a “subsidiary of the human rights commission and a branch of the thought police”, he said.
Last week, Ms Devine published a follow-up column lashing AHPRA’s action.
“You know our culture has reached ‘peak Kafka’ when a doctor is hauled before his medical board on professional misconduct charges for retweeting two tweets by a conservative Senate candidate promoting a book about gender ideology and one of my columns,” she wrote.
AHPRA was designed to stop killers, incompetents and charlatans who endangered lives, “not to stop private citizens with medical degrees from expressing their opinions”, Ms Devine wrote.
Mr Shelton described AHPRA’s stance as an attack on free speech and a “setback for parents’ rights to question the indoctrination of their children with radical gender-fluid ideology at school”.
“If the Medical Board can punish a medical professional questioning that children’s gender is fluid, God help the parents who try and protect their kids from being indoctrinated at school,” he said in a statement.
The former Australian Christian Lobby chief, who has joined Corey Berardi’s Australian Conservatives for a run at the Senate, asked why the board used its power to “crush even the questioning of contested science”.
Public consultation on the update of the Code of Conduct has been extended until August 17.
AHPRA declined to respond to a question from TMR about the status of the complaint against Dr van Gend, citing privacy provisions under the National Law.