Plea for GPs to 'engage' with anti-vax patients
GPs have been urged not to disengage with patients who object to having their children immunised as the impacts of the government’s decision to link the procedure to family tax benefits continue to be debated by doctors.
President of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association Professor Kerryn Phelps and AMA Council of General Practice chair Dr Brian Morton led a backlash against the decision when they told MO recently they would refuse to sign conscientious objector forms on ethical grounds.
The forms allow parents who refuse to immunise their children to still access the benefit, worth about $730 per child, once GPs declare they have discussed the “benefits and risks associated with immunisation”.
In an article for MO recently, Professor Phelps wrote that "just because a patient decides they will refuse immunisation against the overwhelming weight of evidence for its benefits, doesn’t mean we have to get caught up in facilitating their financial incentive" (MO, 20 July).
But National Immunisation Committee GP representative Dr Doug Warne said GPs who sent patients away to have the forms signed elsewhere because they did not agree with the anti-immunisation stance would do more harm than good.
“Only through engaging with people who have differing points of view can we hope to change their minds,” Dr Warne said.
“The form you sign just says the doctor has discussed with the patient the pros and cons and has expressed the risks, there’s nothing there to go against the conscience or medical beliefs; you’re not signing that you’re agreeing with the person or with their beliefs.”
Dr Morton said he felt GPs would earn more respect from patients, and stand a greater chance of changing their minds, by sticking to their ethical principles.
“If the patient perceives you will sign the form and it’s all about getting a fee, they are less likely to consider the matter important,” Dr Morton said.
MDA National claims and advisory services manager Deborah Jackson said GPs refusing to sign the form would not be breaking any laws but could be open to a complaint to AHPRA under the code of conduct.