‘Multi-organ failure on a planetary scale’: doctors declare climate emergency

Medical politics

By David Rowley

10 Apr 2019

Doctors have declared a “climate emergency” and called on governments at all levels “to adequately respond to the climate chaos ” or be seen as negligent.

The declaration came during the Doctors for the Environment Australia’s iDEA19 two-day conference held at the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, attended by doctors from a range of specialties.

The conference’s theme was “Keeping The Lights On”, aiming to get medical professionals and students motivated and skilled “to address the biggest challenge and opportunity facing doctors today – the human health impacts of the environment and climate change.”

The doctors turned up scrubs, surgical masks and stethoscopes for the declaration.

In a rousing speech, conference co-organiser and DEA member, obstetrician Dr Kristine Barnden said climate change needs to be recognised for the emergency that it is.

“Knowing that climate change constitutes a public health crisis, knowing that solutions are available, knowing that we only have a short time to act to prevent run away climate change, doctors are appalled and frightened by the ongoing refusal of politicians to take necessary action,” she said.

“What we know in medicine as multi-organ failure, on a planetary scale becomes ecosystem collapse. We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to find out what cardiac arrest looks like.

“The time to call an emergency is before there is a crisis. The reason to call an emergency is not to ask people to panic, and definitely not to ask the night intern to fix it while the rest of us slumber. The reason to call an emergency is so that we, together as a society, look at the bigger picture, reevaluate our priorities, and focus our energies and our expertise on what needs to be done. “

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