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Dozens of doctors reported to watchdog over Israel-Gaza social media posts

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Dozens of doctors reported to watchdog over Israel-Gaza social media posts

By Henrietta Cook

January 22, 2024 — 5.00am

The bulk of the complaints have been anonymous, with the social media posts in question gathered from closed Facebook groups for doctors.

At least two Instagram accounts have been “doxxing” health practitioners – sharing their private information online – and posting many of the same screenshots that have triggered complaints to AHPRA. These accounts claim many of the posts are antisemitic, racist and support terrorism.

This masthead has spoken to three GPs and one trainee doctor who have been the subject of complaints to AHPRA and NSW’s Health Care Complaints Commission due to social media posts about the conflict.

One GP, who did not want to be identified because it could jeopardise her employment, received a phone call and then a letter from AHPRA in November after she accused Israel of carrying out genocide against Palestinians on a closed Facebook group.

The letter, which has been obtained by this masthead and contains screenshots of the offending comment, invited the GP to provide a written response that would be presented to the Medical Board of Australia. She was advised to contact her professional indemnity insurer and to provide the addresses of all the medical practices she worked at.

“We recognise that having a notification [complaint] raised about you can be stressful. Remember to take care of yourself and talk to your friends, family or colleagues about how you are feeling,” the letter said.

The doctor said she spent many hours writing a three-page response to the complaint and had not heard back from AHPRA about the outcome.

Police have clashed with pro-Palestine activists outside the Port of Melbourne after the group blockaded a terminal.

“AHPRA’s time and resources could be better spent. They should be devoting their time to claims that potentially put patients in grave harm,” she said.

A trainee doctor, who has lost five relatives in Gaza, was recently reported to the regulator for allegedly seeking “medicolegal advice” by posting AHPRA’s social media guidelines on the Doctors for Palestine Facebook group and encouraging people to adhere to them.

“It is co-ordinated targeting to silence and cause distress to doctors speaking out about Palestine,” she said. “People have joined this group with malintent … to capture information and use it to report to AHPRA and for doxxing accounts.”

Receiving and responding to the complaint had been stressful, she said. She is not yet aware of the outcome.

A spokesman for AHPRA said the agency was legally obliged to consider every complaint it received.

“Practitioners who express views that advocate for the protection of healthcare workers, civilians and infrastructure, without breaching the code of conduct or social media guidelines, would be very unlikely to prompt an investigation or warrant any form of regulatory action,” he said.

He said it was common for these complaints to be closed either before or soon after AHPRA had let a practitioner know that someone had raised a concern.

The spokesman said none of the 59 complaints AHPRA had received in relation to practitioners discussing the war in Gaza had “required formal investigation to date”.

The bulk of the complaints related to posts made by doctors, with a smaller number related to nurses, psychologists, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, pharmacists and physiotherapists.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler made a complaint to AHPRA in October about a Melbourne doctor who he claims played down Hamas’ massacre of 260 partygoers at the Supernova Music Festival in Israel.

He alleges the doctor said: “There is no denial that crimes were committed, but the whole ‘naked women were pack raped or disrobed and displayed’ narrative is not factual … It’s a rave party … the attire doesn’t include long sleeves and pants.”

Leibler said the GP, who this masthead has chosen not to name, “owes professional obligations in how she uses her profile and platform as an Australian medical doctor”.

Medical indemnity insurer Avant emailed its members in November to advise them to carefully consider how they comment on the crisis.

They were advised not to post social media content that may “reflect poorly on your role as a doctor and on the reputation of the broader medical profession”.

Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dr Dvir Abramovich said he had been shocked by some of “the hateful posts” he had seen from doctors.

“These include posts comparing Israel’s defence of its citizens to the Holocaust, others labelling Israel an apartheid state and calling for a boycott of Israel. It is antisemitic to its core,” he said.

“Clinics should not be turned into battlefields and hotbeds of anti-Israel propaganda and incitement.”

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Article source: The Age

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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