Why medics have to speak out on is­sue of Tri­dent

The Herald - - OPINION - DR LES­LEY MOR­RI­SON Medact Scot­land

TO­DAY at Faslane nu­clear base on the Clyde thou­sands of peo­ple from all over the world will gather to protest about Tri­dent and say “Nae nukes any­where”. Among the de­mon­stra­tors will be many health pro­fes­sion­als who see it as part of their pro­fes­sional re­spon­si­bil­ity to speak out about dis­ar­ma­ment. To care, not just for in­di­vid­ual pa­tients and their fam­i­lies, but their com­mu­ni­ties and the wider world. As the GMC states, the duty of a doc­tor is “to pro­tect and pro­mote the health of pa­tients and the pub­lic”.

Their mes­sage will be “Treat­ment not Tri­dent, “Beds not bombs”. The bil­lions of pounds be­ing spent on these ob­scene weapons of mass de­struc­tion is money des­per­ately needed by our health and so­cial ser­vices. At a time when the health ser­vice is un­der so much pres­sure is it not, to say the very least, strange that so much tax­pay­ers’ money is be­ing spent on a weapons sys­tem which many mil­i­tary ex­perts agree is in­ef­fec­tive in deal­ing with ter­ror­ism and the other very real threats in the mod­ern world? But some­how peo­ple have be­come used to it. The nu­clear sub­marines have been ly­ing there, omi­nously, for so long that they have be­come ac­cepted. The hor­rific ele­phant, not in the room, but in the Clyde.

In the same way that smok­ing was ac­cepted as a nor­mal part of life un­til doc­tors be­gan to speak out about the risks and peo­ple’s be­hav­iour be­gan to change, doc­tors are speak­ing out about the risks of nu­clear weapons. And, in the same way that the to­bacco in­dus­try did not like hear­ing what they had to say, the arms in­dus­try is un­happy that the truth, about the po­ten­tial cat­a­strophic health ef­fects and about the prof­its of the arms in­dus­try, is be­ing re­vealed.

As we watch ter­ri­ble footage of the storms wreak­ing havoc in sev­eral parts of the world our con­cern about cli­mate change, and the ur­gency to do some­thing about it, grows. Why di­vert med­i­cal ac­tivist en­ergy into dis­ar­ma­ment? Be­cause the is­sues of dis­ar­ma­ment, mil­i­tarism, cli­mate change and the en­vi­ron­ment are in­ex­tri­ca­bly in­ter­linked. They are all is­sues of hu­man rights and so­cial jus­tice. The poor­est in the world suf­fer most from all of them.

If the in­ter­na­tional tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and re­sources be­ing de­voted to pro­duc­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion were di­verted to solv­ing the prob­lem of cli­mate change we would all be safer. If con­flicts, stoked by arms traders and de­stroy­ing en­vi­ron­ments, were pre­vented, the nat­u­ral and po­lit­i­cal world would be more sta­ble.

Medact is an or­gan­i­sa­tion of doc­tors and health pro­fes­sion­als who are work­ing hard to make this con­nec­tion, to use their voice to try to make the world a bet­ter, fairer, safer place. And they are not a lonely, fringe or­gan­i­sa­tion of fuzzy-think­ing left­ies in the in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal com­mu­nity. They are sup­ported by the BMA and the WMA (World Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion), af­fil­i­ates of IPPNW (In­ter­na­tional Physi­cians for the Pre­ven­tion of Nu­clear War), win­ners of the No­bel Peace Prize in 1985 and ICAN (In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons), this year’s No­bel Peace Prize win­ner.

At a pub­lic Medact meet­ing in Glas­gow last night Pete Ritchie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Nour­ish Scot­land, spoke about food as an is­sue of hu­man rights. The world has enough food to feed all its peo­ple. The fact that it is used as a prof­it­mak­ing com­mod­ity and not dis­trib­uted as needed means that mil­lions starve.

We have to start putting peo­ple be­fore profit. And tak­ing that health mes­sage to the mil­i­tary in­dus­trial com­plex ex­em­pli­fied by Tri­dent on the Clyde is a good place to start.

The is­sues of dis­ar­ma­ment, mil­i­tarism, cli­mate change and the en­vi­ron­ment are all is­sues of hu­man rights and so­cial jus­tice

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