Dear Prime MInister,
The Pacific Solution is working. The number of unscheduled boat arrivals has slowed. This has come about by a policy which incarcerates refugees who arrive by boat, including children, in harsh conditions on Manus Island or Nauru.
The basis of the Pacific Solution seems to be that future asylum seekers will be deterred from coming by boat because they know that harsh mistreatment awaits them.
If Manus Island and Nauru were pleasant places where families thrive in good health in an untroubled and nurturing environment the deterrent effect would of course not exist.
We understand that, despite vociferous denials, Manus and Nauru have repeatedly been shown to be unsafe places and this is in fact part of the strategy.
Effectively then one group of people is being mistreated for the benefit of another group which might otherwise undertake a perilous journey by boat from an Asian port.
We are confident that our government would not condone participation in research or treatment without the consent of persons who themselves can derive no benefit, even if those persons were unlikely to be harmed in the process.
The problem with this strategy is that it is unethical to subject people who have not provided consent to harsh treatment for the benefit of others. The extent of the benefit to the other group is irrelevant. The people being sent to these islands have not consented to be used for the government’s deterrent purpose.
In medical research these principles are laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki. An example of such ethical principles operating in healthcare is in organ donation. A person with two good kidneys cannot be conscripted without consent to donate one kidney for transplantation even when that transplant would likely be lifesaving. The principle is the same. In the current government offshore detention strategy people, particularly children, are placed at serious risk of mental and physical health problems to protect others.
We are confident that our government would not condone participation in research or treatment without the consent of persons who themselves can derive no benefit, even if those persons were unlikely to be harmed in the process. When innocent people are clearly being harmed without consent for the benefit of others the ethical implications are clear.
Ethical principles are not established by legislation but are identified as self-evident truths. We fail to understand how government decisions can bypass or negate well established and universally recognised ethical principles.
The argument that refugee security assessment procedures keep people on these islands is spurious. These processes can readily be undertaken in Australia.
For our government to be seen to follow well established ethical principles, the forced detention of asylum seekers in environments with a risk of harm must cease.
- Emeritus Professor Kim Oates AM, University of Sydney
- Professor David Isaacs, University of Sydney
- Dr Sue Packer AM, Community Paediatrician, ACT
- Professor John Ziegler AM, School of Women’s & Children’s Health, UNSW
- Dr Avril Alba, University of Sydney
- Scientia Professor David A. Cooper AO, Director, Kirby Institute, UNSW
- Professor David Burgner, Paediatrician, Melbourne
- Dr Hilton Immerman OAM, UNSW
- Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman AO, University of Sydney
- Dr Alex Wodak AM, President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Director, Australia21
- Deborah Linker
- Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, Sydney Jewish Museum
- Prof Louise Baur AM, University of Sydney
- Joanna Kalowski, Mediator and facilitator
- Dr Stephen Adelstein, Clinical Immunologist, Sydney
- Dr Sue Woolfenden, Community/Developmental Paediatrician, UNSW
- Dr Sarah Dalton, Paediatric Emergency Physician, Sydney
- Professor Kevin Forsyth, Academic paediatrician
- Associate Professor Alyson Kakakios OAM, University of Sydney
- Professor Andrew Carr, Head of Clinical Research, AMR, St Vincent’s Hospital, and UNSW
- Heather Mitchell, Actress
- Professor Andrew Rosenberg, Head of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Sydney
- Dr Joseph Toltz, Musicology Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney
- Professor Ian Kerridge, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney
- Professor Stuart Tangye, Head, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
- Professor Wayne Hall, Director, Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, University of Queensland
- Professor Merrilyn Walton AM, School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney
- Dr Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist
- Dr Tri Giang Phan, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
- Professor Jonathan Sprent FAA FRS
- Rodrigo Vazquez-Lombardi, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
- Dr Elissa Deenick, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
- Dr. Christopher Sundling, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- Irving Wallach, Barrister, Forbes Chambers, Sydney
- Dr David Langley
- Professor Mark Ferson, UNSW
- Dr Cindy Ma, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW
- Claudia Loetsch, PhD candidate, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney
- Dr Vinny Mamo
- Dr Genevieve Brady
- Professor Tuan V. Nguyen, UNSW and University of Technology Sydney
- Professor Philip Boyce, University of Sydney
- Martin Mcgrath, Director of Photography, ACS
- Dr Dimitra Tzioumi, Paediatrician
- Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland OAM, Dept. of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, University of Sydney
- John Kaldor, Scientia Professor, Kirby Institute, UNSW
- A/Professor Anne Mijch OAM, Monash University
- Dr Miranda Johnson, Department of History, University of Sydney
- Debbie Burnett, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
- Professor Jenny Gunton, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney
- Jeffrey B. Kamins, Senior Rabbi, Arno & Hella Seefeldt Rabbinic Chair, Emanuel Synagogue
- Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, Emanuel Synagogue
- Dr Paul Gray, Paediatric Immunologist, Sydney
- Son Nghiem, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Health & Biomedical Innovation, QUT
- Professor Lynne Madden, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, School of Medicine, UND, Sydney
- Professor Fiona Stanley AC, UWA and University of Melbourne, Patron of Telethon Kids Institute
- Laureate Professor Nick Talley, RACP President
- Alfred Linker, Solicitor & Regional General Counsel
- Linh Anh Le, University of Adelaide
- Associate Professor Julian Grant, Flinders University
- Dr Andrew Kelly, Paediatric Cardiologist, Adelaide, South Australia
- Dr Arjun Rao, Paediatric Emergency Physician
- Ansha Malik, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- Mahmoud Abdelatti, Pharmacist, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- Thu Phuong Dinh Thi, School of Psychology, Flinders University
- Dr Marcel Batten, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- Dr Tatyana Chtanova, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- Dr Dat Ma, University of Queensland
- Dr Lam Tran, Dentist, Forest Lake, Queensland
- Dr Deirdre White, Paediatrician, South Australia
- Dr David Everett, Consultant Paediatrician, Adelaide
- Dr Nicola Poplawski, Paediatrician and Clinical Geneticist, Adelaide
- Professor Jon Jureidini, Disciplines of Psychiatry and Paediatrics, University of Adelaide
- Professor John Carlin, University of Melbourne
- Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health, The University of Sydney
Note: The Declaration of Helsinki is a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation developed for the medical community by the World Medical Association. It is widely regarded as the cornerstone document on human research ethics.