Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Climate Emergency

“I’m not asking to be let off”—suspended climate activist GP Sarah Benn continues to stand her ground

BMJ 2024; 385 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q1003 (Published 08 May 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;385:q1003
  1. Adele Waters, freelance journalist
  1. London
  1. adele.waters{at}me.com

Sarah Benn—the first doctor to face disciplinary action after being convicted and jailed for actions relating to climate activism—tells Adele Waters why suspension from the medical register will not stop her protesting

“I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel I’ve dishonoured the profession, and I think I could explain myself very well to anybody who thought that I had,” says Sarah Benn, climate activist and former general practitioner.

Fresh from the decision by the UK’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) on 23 April to suspend her from the professional register for five months,1 she finds the situation clear: the activism that led to her suspension was necessary to raise the alarm over the climate crisis and was also in keeping with a doctor’s mission to promote health and save lives.

“The world is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the danger of climate and ecological collapse, and I believe that my actions are a justified and proportionate effort to raise an alarm about the severity and urgency of the situation,” she says. “All the science is absolutely shocking—the planet is on a path to 2°C warming (above pre-industrial levels), if not more. We need to do something really radical and urgent to protect our coral reefs and Arctic sea ice and to stop deadly heat waves, but that’s not happening. The inaction is just shocking.”

From peaceful protest to suspension via jail

Benn, from Harborne in Birmingham, UK, doesn’t sound angry or defiant as she speaks. She is more in the mould of a serious teacher, calmly explaining a logical sequence of events that must be followed.

So how did she end up being suspended from the register? Two years ago she engaged in a series of peaceful protests aimed at stopping the government granting new oil licences. She stood holding a protest placard outside the …

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