All doc­tors to put own health first - due to Kiwi

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - CECILE MEIER

A Kiwi doc­tor’s ef­forts have led the World Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion to amend the Dec­la­ra­tion of Geneva – the vow made by doc­tors upon en­ter­ing the pro­fes­sion.

Sam Ha­zle­dine has been fight­ing to im­prove doc­tors’ well­be­ing af­ter re­search­ing the ‘‘alarm­ing’’ rates of burnout, sui­cide and men­tal health is­sues they ex­pe­ri­ence. He found these is­sues could lead to med­i­cal er­rors and ul­ti­mately harm pa­tients.

He be­lieved it all started when doc­tors took the oath with the state­ment: ‘‘The health of my pa­tient will be my first con­sid­er­a­tion.’’

He launched a pe­ti­tion, signed by more than 4500 Aus­tralasian doc­tors, to add a clause pri­ori­tis­ing doc­tors’ well­be­ing to the dec­la­ra­tion.

The pe­ti­tion was pre­sented to the med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion’s gen­eral as­sem­bly in Taipei last year.

Af­ter a con­sul­ta­tion process and work on the clause’s word­ing, the as­sem­bly rat­i­fied the change in Chicago this week.

The new clause states: ‘‘I will at­tend to my own health, well­be­ing and abil­i­ties in or­der to pro­vide care of the high­est stan­dard.’’

It is one of three new clauses that have been added as part of a broader re­view of the dec­la­ra­tion. The other new clauses re­late to the re­spect of pa­tients’ au­ton­omy and dig­nity, and the shar­ing of med­i­cal knowl­edge.

The dec­la­ra­tion of Geneva was adopted in 1948 as a global stan­dard of med­i­cal ethics af­ter the atroc­i­ties dur­ing World War II. It has been amended three times.

Re­cent re­search by the Amer­i­can Academy of Orthopaedic Sur­geons showed 87 per cent of doc­tors said they were stressed and more than half said that in hind­sight, they would not choose to be­come a doc­tor.

In New Zealand, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Salar­ied Med­i­cal Spe­cial­ists pub­lished a re­port last year show­ing half of pub­lic hospi­tal spe­cial­ists felt burnt-out, po­ten­tially af­fect­ing pa­tient care and in­creas­ing the risk of med­i­cal er­rors.

The Royal New Zealand Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers said it needed to ad­dress burnout in doc­tors af­ter a 2016 sur­vey re­vealed 22 per cent of GPs sel­f­re­ported be­ing burnt-out.

Ha­zle­dine left the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion 11 years ago to cre­ate his own med­i­cal re­cruit­ment com­pany, MedRe­cruit. He re­alised he was suf­fer­ing burnout while re­search­ing the is­sue.

At the time, he worked 15 hour days and ded­i­cated all his free time to his fam­ily with two young chil­dren.

New Zealand doc­tor Sam Ha­zle­dine.

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