Intended for healthcare professionals

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Feature Extinction Rebellion

Could protesting for climate action damage doctors’ careers?

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6875 (Published 13 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6875

Linked Opinion

Why are doctors sticking themselves to government buildings?

Rapid Response:

Re: Could protesting for climate action damage doctors’ careers?

Dear Editor

The unqualified support for XR expressed in this article by the editors of both BMJ and Lancet fails to acknowledge adverse effects of protests on healthcare. Staff and patients are inevitably caught up with others in long delays caused by road or rail blockades. A nurse arrives late for her shift on an already understaffed ward. A doctor, travelling from one hospital to another, is delayed by 3 hours and his OP clinic is cancelled. Patients, some of whom have waited months for this appointment, are deferred to an unspecified date. An ambulance carrying a critically ill patient is delayed getting to ICU.

A widely reported incident in Bristol involved a man summoned to his dying father's bedside as he had only hours to live and wished to see his son before he died. The son, caught up in XR protests, arrived too late. This tragic case is unlikely to be unique.

The usual argument in response, that some short term sacrifice is a price worth paying for long term gain (eggs and omelettes), seems deeply cynical when applied to healthcare.

Perhaps a responsible journal should encourage protest in this important and entirely laudable cause, to be arranged so that care of our patients is not affected? It is quite possible to protest without affecting the general public and their work; such protests may gain more support in the long term.

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 January 2020
Paul Creamer
Physician
Bristol