Where Do Personal Beliefs Stop When In Public Office?

Hi there Guys,

Today I wanted to follow up on my recent post “Doctors In The Dark“.

After the this article was published I have been overwhelmed with not only amazing public support but also more than a handful of enquiries from a number of press agencies.

To bring a little context, the reason “Doctors In The Dark” resonated so well in Australia has been due to controversy with Victoria’s Deputy Chief of Psychiatry, Professor Kuruvilla George, his position as a member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board and also the Human Rights Commission.

When interviewed by the ABC, John Searle, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission said:

Oh, I think the views that he expressed in his private capacity, as I said in his personal capacity which he is entitled to express, were probably at odds with some of the stakeholders of the commission. I think it’s fair people would recognise that there would be a different view held by the stakeholders of the commission and some people may not accept his views and some people may not agree with his views.

Throughout this interview Mr Searle appeared to go to great pains to note that Dr Kuruvilla George expressed views that were of his own private capacity.

While there has been great rejoicing about Dr Kuruvilla George’s resignation from the Human Rights Commission he still holds his position as the Deputy Chief of Psychiatry here in Victoria.

Chief Psychiatrist of Victoria Dr Ruth Vine has also been in talks with Dr Kuruvilla George, stating to The Age Newspaper: “He did not seek to represent the views of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist or the Victorian government”.

The problem is that despite these two statements to reassure the public that Dr Kuruvilla George was acting as a sole individual, that is clearly not the case. His signature was to the group “Doctors For The Family”, not “People For The Family” or “Individuals For The Family”. This group has purposely selected doctors to add weight to their argument, Dr Kuruvilla George has purposely used his qualifications as a doctor to bolster the strength of the submission that was made to the Australian Senate.

If you look at his electronic submission in the “Doctors For The Family” Senate document you can see he has gone to great pains to make sure all the letters of his qualifications are included. Not only as a doctor but also as a psychiatrist. Unfortunately both the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College Of Psychiatrists condemned this submission.

This is not the submission of an individual, this is the submission of a highly qualified doctor. A highly qualified doctor holding a position of great responsibility as the Deputy Chief of Psychiatry in Victoria. A role that includes:

  • review of the administration of electric convulsion therapy, ECT
  • provision of advice and consultation to the public and consumers of the mental health services
  • investigation of complaints from consumers and carers
  • state wide review of mental health services

This is a high powered and important job.

As I have previously reported, Australian research show that gay and lesbian people have higher rates of mental health issues. The rates of suicide, depression and anxiety are significantly higher within our community. As a result of this it is understandable that indeed the homosexual community may well be higher users of mental health services under the care of Dr Kuruvilla George.

These are the same homosexuals condemned by “Doctors For The Family”. The lobby group to which Dr Kuruvilla George was happy to sign his name, while its spokesperson, GP Lachlan Dunjey, vaguely promised to shield from public scrutiny the doctors who signed.

Clearly there is a conflict of interest for Dr Kuruvilla George to continue in his role as Deputy Chief Of Psychiatry while his name is indelibly tied to a band of doctors with clear homophobic aims. Dr Kuruvilla George has already acknowledged this by his resignation from the Human Rights Commission, despite the excuses he has offered.

While I congratulate him for taking this step, I believe that this is not enough. Something needs to change. He either leaves his position as Deputy Chief of Psychiatry or revokes his connection with “Doctors For The Family”, acknowledging that their sole role is as a homophobic hate group, using medical qualifications as a battering ram for their hateful agenda.

Within our society being a doctor is a position of privilege and great responsibility. All doctors must do their utmost to live up to that responsibility.

I agreed to live by the Hippocratic Oath, and that oath is 24/7, not just when I’m seeing patients or when it’s convenient for me. Dr Kuruvilla George would have agreed by this same oath as well. Now it’s time for him to be called upon to live by it.

For this reason I have started a petition urging Dr Kuruvilla George to be removed from his position as Deputy Chief of Psychiatry in Victoria. This conflict of interest cannot continue.

The gay and lesbian consumers of mental health services have a right to be represented fairly, equally and 100% without bias. I worry Dr Kuruvilla George is not currently in a position to be able to offer this level of representation.

I urge you to please consider electronically signing the following petition to the Minister Of Mental Health Victoria, Mary Wooldridge:

Stand down Dr Kuruvilla George as Deputy Chief of Psychiatry Victoria

I urge you to click the link above and have your voice heard. A voice that demands equal care for all consumers of mental health services, no matter what their sexual preference.

Yours in good health.

Dr George Forgan-Smith

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