Why medics have to speak out on issue of Trident
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