Five former state presidents of the Australian Medical Association are among almost 400 doctors who have signed a petition asking the nation’s peak medical body to retract its support for same-sex marriage.
The rearguard group, led by former AMA Tasmania president Chris Middleton, delivered a letter to AMA national president Michael Gannon yesterday accusing him of making “false and misleading claims” about why same-sex marriage should be treated as a health issue.
“In the six days since the ‘medical critique’ was made public a further 368 of us, including 26 professors and associate professors and five past state presidents, have added our voices to this sincere expression of concern,” Dr Middleton wrote in the letter.
Among the signatories was Howard government minister John Herron, also a former president of the AMA Queensland.
Former AMA West Australian president Paul Skerritt also signed the petition, along with former AMA Tasmanian presidents Haydn Walters and Michael Aizen. Four of the five past presidents who signed the petition are AMA fellows, which is one of the body’s highest honours.
The Weekend Australian revealed last week that Dr Middleton and five other AMA members had compiled a report savaging the body’s processes in choosing to support same-sex marriage.
The report was critical of the AMA for not consulting the membership before it made its position statement on same-sex marriage, as it had done for other controversial issues, such as euthanasia.
The report said the AMA used flimsy evidence to argue children of gay couples had the same health outcomes as those raised by their biological mother and father. It also criticised evidence used by the AMA to claim legalising same-sex marriage would improve the health of gay people.
Dr Herron, who was Aboriginal affairs minister from 1996-2001, said the AMA should have consulted its membership base, rather than agreeing to pursue the policy after a meeting of state presidents at the AMA’s federal council.
“It didn’t do any polling on the membership of the AMA,” Dr Herron told The Weekend Australian. “And I don’t agree with the statement because a child deserves a mother and a father, not two mothers and two fathers.”
Dr Gannon said he understood why some members were disappointed with the AMA’s position on same-sex marriage, which was announced earlier in the year.
“I respect their right to have an opinion and it is natural that the AMA will produce position statements which are divisive,” he said.
“I expected a portion of our membership to be unhappy about our statement on marriage equality and I was prepared for some resignations on it. But I am very happy to defend the process.
“It was worked out through a working group made up of federal councillors and other experts.”
He said the body would review whether it should have polled its membership base. “That is something we will reflect on,’’ Dr Gannon said. “We gave ourselves a lot of pats on the back when it came to our process on the physician-assisted suicide (position statement), the way we did it so carefully and went to the membership and surveyed them.
“So I think we will reflect on whether we got this one right. But it … would be fair to say that the response … has been overwhelmingly supportive in terms of our position on marriage equality.”Share