Doctors group condemns RACP


Medical group Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice has sent a letter of complaint, criticising the RACP executive for unilaterally cancelling its invitation to Dr Rodney Syme to address its annual Congress.

Dr Arnold Gillespie heads a list of more than sixty doctors who have signed a letter of criticism and censure sent to the Board and Executive of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, in response to their insulting and controversial flip-flop on Dr Rodney Syme giving a key address at its 2015 Congress. This is the letter.


Dr Catherine Yelland
President-Elect and Acting President
Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and
Executive Royal Australasian College of Physicians


Dear Dr Yelland and Executive RACP

The homepage of the RACP Congress in May 2015 proudly proclaims that the title of the Congress is “Breaking Boundaries Creating Connections”.  It is claimed that the “Diverse Program” will provide opportunities for delegates to” Interact debate and connect”.

The intent of the title of the Congress is amplified a little lower on the page by the statement that “In 2015, we are building on the past theme of Future Directions in Health, and moving forward to reinvigorate Congress and challenge delegates to break boundaries and create connections”.

 More specifically under the heading of “What to Expect”, is the statement” Expand your thinking on gender identity, refugee health, indigenous health, ageing physician and end of life care”.

We hope that the Congress is a successful learning and development experience for delegates and we wish the College success in its aims of moving forward and expanding thinking in the areas of gender identity, refugee health, indigenous health and the ageing physician.  We are certain that the expansive aim will not be achieved in relation to end of life care.  It seems that in this area a decision, more in keeping with a totalitarian authority than a group committed to breaking boundaries and encouraging debate, has been made and instigated. We refer of course to the very late removal from the program of Dr Rodney Syme, an invited speaker.  The theme of Dr Syme’s presentation was to be a discussion of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of palliative care, based on published material. 

It has been claimed that this action was taken because of considerable discontent amongst Fellows of the College regarding Dr Symes’s presentation.  Neither the magnitude of the dissent, nor the composition of the dissenting group, has been clarified.  Clearly the dissenters were not willing to countenance any discussion that might encourage them to move forward, break boundaries, nor even to interact and debate.  Are they so insecure in their beliefs that they are unwilling for them to be challenged openly?  If this is true, why has the Executive of the College acquiesced to a group which has prohibited free thought and whose actions should be anathema to a College which states on its homepage that it is “...striving for excellence in health and medical care through lifelong learning, quality performance and advocacy”?  Only the Executive knows the answer to this question, but it is not only the Executive which bears the burden of the action.  The integrity of other members of the College committed to practicing medicine in accord with the motto of the College has been tainted by those whom they had elected to be their public representatives. 

We are dismayed that this intellectually restrictive act could be perpetrated by our fellow medical practitioners, in Australia, in the 21st century and are appalled by the discourtesy shown to an invited speaker whose credentials in end of life care are widely admired.

Yours sincerely

Associate Professor Arnold Gillespie
For Doctors for Voluntary Euthanasia Choice
and 63 other signatories.


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