On November 4, a senator in Australia’s Federal Parliament, Gerard Rennick, stated that numerous medical professionals had complained to his office that they were being threatened with deregistration if they raised concerns about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Senator Rennick has been an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates, and has rocketed to fame on social media because he is rebelling against heavy-handed government intervention.

However, according to Jocelyn Garcia in Tuesday’s Brisbane Times, those doctors are mistaken. She reported that, according to Martin Fletcher, head of the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Authority (AHPRA), “the agency did not have the power to deregister health professionals”.

These are weasel words.

It is true that AHPRA itself cannot deregister professionals. The Medical Board of Australia and those of the states and territories do it for them. AHPRA writes the “Code of Conduct” for doctors and questions of compliance are referred to the relevant Medical Board for arbitration — which may result in deregistration.

Fletcher’s statement is an obfuscation and Garcia let him get away with it.

Journalists are supposed to be bold critics of government overreach. Garcia’s article is not journalism, it is simply a reworking of the sort of bureaucratic flannel journalists are supposed to critique.

If the mainstream media won’t address the question at issue, I will: are Australian doctors right to be worried about deregistration if they criticise AHPRA’s official position statement on Covid-19 vaccination? The answer is Yes.

Patients are telling Senator Rennick that their GPs have advised them not to get a second jab after they had an adverse reaction to the first one. But these same doctors are reluctant to write an exemption for fear of deregistration. Healthcare workers also report that they are afraid to disagree.  

They have every right to worry. AHPRA’s position statement is very intimidating:

Any promotion of anti-vaccination statements or health advice which contradicts the best available scientific evidence or seeks to actively undermine the national immunisation campaign (including via social media) is not supported by National Boards and may be in breach of the codes of conduct and subject to investigation and possible regulatory action. (emphasis added)

The “or” in this statement is tremendously important. Contrary to all common sense, doctors who have good scientific evidence for advising against the vaccine are not free to say so.

Mr Fletcher also says that: “We expect any medical practitioner being asked to supply exemption certificate to use their clinical judgement”. But it turns out that their clinical judgement has to agree with AHPRA’s: “practitioners should only sign a COVID-19 exemption certificate if they believe its contents are in accordance with Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.”

Experience shows that where “clinical judgement” and “scientific evidence” support an exemption, these do not weigh in the balance against the all-important consideration of doing what AHPRA and ATAGI say – which is to vaccinate as many people as possible.

We can point to Dr Paul Oosterhuis and Dr Mark Hobart as case studies.

Dr Oosterhuis, an anaesthetist with over 30 years’ experience, was called before the Medical Board of New South Wales in September to explain his social media posts regarding Covid-19 early treatment and prophylaxis, PCR tests, and risk-benefit calculations regarding Covid-19 vaccination and lockdowns. According to a statement issued by Dr Oosterhuis’s supporters:

Before the medical board, Dr Oosterhuis presented evidence to support the accuracy of his social media posts. The medical board, however, declined to engage in any discussion regarding the evidence, or the veracity and legitimacy of Dr Oosterhuis’ statements. At issue was one thing and one thing only: whether Dr Oosterhuis had contradicted the Government. He had, and he was suspended.

Dr Hobart, an experienced GP, recently had his premises searched and confidential patient documents confiscated. A spokeswoman for AHPRA told the Sydney Morning Herald that:

“If a notification is made to us that a practitioner is providing exemptions in circumstances other than those described in the [official] advice, we will investigate … an investigation could lead to restrictions on a practitioner’s registration. This could affect their ability to continue to provide exemptions, to manage patients in relation to COVID-19, or where there is significant continuing risk or it is in the public interest, could result in a suspension of registration.”

The scope for doctors to exercise “clinical judgement” is clearly extraordinarily limited when it comes to granting exemptions from the Covid shot. Normally, for example, anaphylaxis would be grounds for a vaccine exemption. But according to John Skerrit, head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), this is not the case:

“Say, for example, people have an anaphylactic reaction to Pfizer in their first, they are encouraged not to take Pfizer as their second shot … …[If] your doctor’s of the view that it’s related to the vaccine, there are alternatives for them to have a different vaccine as their second shot.”

If Skerrit believes this policy to be reasonable, it is easy to see why doctors and patients unwilling to risk a second round of life-threatening anaphylaxis might not agree. 

AHPRA, the various Medical Boards they support, ATAGI and a whole network of associated bureaucracies are interfering with the normal practice of medicine and constraining doctors’ clinical judgements where these run counter to the State and Federal governments’ policy of population-wide rollout of Covid-19 shots.

The implications of such government overreach should concern us all – not just the doctors immediately affected. As Doctors for COVID Ethics point out:

Summarily terminating any medical professional who contradicts the government is a canary in the coalmine of democracy. It signals that trusted medical institutions – in this case registration boards – are operating as enforcers of government dogma. This is not how regulatory bodies function in democracies. It is how they function in dictatorships.

In democracies, doctors are free – and indeed expected – to act according to their training, knowledge and experience. They are not required to parrot government diktat, and think with one hive state-controlled mind, while keeping a lid on relevant evidence and their informed medical opinion. This, however, is the state of affairs in Australia.

It is not only doctors who suffer when medical professionals are politically censored and gagged in this way. It is their patients and the general public, who are ultimately denied reliable medical information and advice.

All vaccine adverse events need to be investigated, particularly when the vaccines are still in the experimental phase. Senator Rennick is to be applauded for highlighting the concerns of healthcare workers.

His critics in Parliament, in the public service, and in the media are manifestly failing in their duty to keep the Australian public properly informed.

Elisabeth Taylor

Dr Elisabeth Taylor is a graduate from the University of Sydney and Commonwealth scholar with a PhD in Medieval Women’s History from Cambridge University. She now works as a researcher, writer and speaker,...