Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Extinction Rebellion

Could protesting for climate action damage doctors’ careers?

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 13 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6875

Linked Opinion

Why are doctors sticking themselves to government buildings?

  1. Shivali Fulchand, editorial registrar
  1. The BMJ
  1. sfulchand{at}

Several doctors have been arrested for taking part in non-violent demonstrations for Extinction Rebellion, finds Shivali Fulchand

“It is a risk and sacrifice, but this is utterly my duty, and I don’t know how this could be seen as discrediting my profession,” Chris Newman, cofounder of the independent protest group Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, told The BMJ.

Newman, a salaried GP in north London, was one of four doctors arrested in September; he had glued himself to the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. Over 30 doctors took part in a non-violent protest against government inaction on climate heating and its global health consequences.

This came ahead of two weeks of mass protests by Extinction Rebellion (XR) in 23 cities worldwide, starting on 7 October.

But taking part in XR protests can have consequences: Newman says that at least 21 doctors have been arrested, and those who have accepted a caution or have been charged must refer themselves to the General Medical Council for investigation as well as inform their employers.

XR held its first international protest in April 2019, with the disruption dominating media coverage—and polarising public opinion. This was Newman’s first exposure to the movement.

Newman went in his scrubs, thinking that the media would find it harder to dismiss medical professional protestors as cranks. He started Doctors for XR when he realised the impact doctors could make, and 70 doctors joined within 24 hours.

“A lot of doctors are really scared for their kids. Not being confrontational just hasn’t worked, and they were deeply frustrated,” he says

What is Extinction Rebellion?

Extinction Rebellion is an international grassroots protest group that promotes non-violent civil disobedience …

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