Thousands of doctors have signed an open letter urging home affairs minister Peter Dutton to allow a dying man on Nauru to be brought to Australia for palliative care. The 63-year-old Hazara Afghan man, who has been formally recognised as a refugee, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and is zoning in and out of lucidity due to lesions on his brain. Dr Nick Martin, who worked on Nauru in 2016 and 2017, told BuzzFeed News the man’s “only chance of a good death is to come to Australia so that he can have both community and medical expertise”. The letter, signed by more than 2000 doctors, says the man “faces a potentially catastrophic death, without medical expertise to ease his pain and symptoms”.
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The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Home Affairs
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
PO Box 6022
Canberra ACT 2600
19 June 2018
To The Honourable Peter Dutton,
When I started writing this letter to you, I was one doctor. My colleagues heard my call. Now I ask you to hear the voices of nearly 2000 medicos, including some of Australia’s best and brightest. This list grows by the day.
We are writing to ask that you bring the refugee with terminal lung cancer to Australia for palliative care. We write in response to the articles published in The Guardian newspaper on May 24 and June 11, 2018.
Australia has accepted this man as a legitimate refugee. This means Australia is obligated by International
Conventions to care for his physical and mental health, whether he is on the mainland, or off shore. Australia is a signatory of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that this man should not be subject to inhuman treatment (Article 5), and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which speaks directly about equitable health care, including palliative care.
Nauru is not an appropriate place for this man to die. The Australian Border Force tacitly acknowledged this by offering to transfer him to Taiwan for palliative care. He requires expertise beyond what is available on Nauru.
So, why would a man refuse a transfer from Nauru?
Why would he risk a death where he might suffer severe, untreated physical pain?
And why would we ask you to commit to bringing him to Australia?
The answer is found in what we as doctors see every day. We and our teams have the privilege of being in the presence of people who are dying. We see their families rush from great distances to say goodbye. We hear them sing songs and cry their goodbyes. We’ve rushed to our own family and friends’ sides to do the same. At the end of life, language, connection with our people and memory are what is left. This is what defines us as humans.
If he goes to Taiwan, where there are no Hazara, he will die isolated and without community. This is no way to die.
If he remains on Nauru, he faces a potentially catastrophic death, without medical expertise to ease his pain and symptoms. This is no way to die.
His only chance of a good death is to come to Australia so that he can have both community and medical expertise.
Our international reputation depends on it. Our humanity demands it.
Dr Sara Townend B(Ed) MBBS FRACGP
Other signatures follow – https://doctorsmakechange.org/