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Queensland Catholic doctors support plans for national “united front”

Catholic doctors Dr Terry Kent and Dr Alison Bignell

Dr Alison Bignell: “A national body will, I believe, make the voice a bit louder from the medical cohort and, I hope, may have a bit more influence politically and, who knows, maybe also in the media.”

QUEENSLAND medicos have welcomed plans to set up a national body to give support and a voice to Catholic doctors.

Australian Catholic bishops have approved a body to be known as the Catholic Medical Association of Australia – following a request from doctors wanting to highlight what Catholic teaching brings to healthcare in an increasingly secular world.

Catholic doctors face an increasing test of faith dealing with issues such as abortion, euthanasia and IVF.

“A national body will, I believe, make the voice a bit louder from the medical cohort, and I hope, may have a bit more influence politically and, who knows, maybe also in the media,” Brisbane general practitioner Dr Alison Bignell said.

Dr Bignell is trained in the new women’s health science of naProTechnology which empowers many couples to achieve a healthy pregnancy outcome without the need for IVF.

“A united front from a broader base of members would have to be more effective than the current state-based organisations,” she said.

Chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Canon Law Bishop Robert McGuckin said the national association would assist Catholic doctors, “so they may more easily confer on issues which touch the whole of Australia”.

“My thanks to the medicos for taking this initiative,” he said.

Approval to set up the Catholic Medical Association of Australia was given at a bishops’ plenary meeting late last year, following a meeting in Melbourne of state-based Catholic doctors’ guilds, including Queensland’s Guild of St Luke.

Brisbane GP and Guild of St Luke president Dr Terry Kent has delivered strong advocacy over many years on behalf of Catholic doctors and was involved in the move to form the CMA.

“It is timely to form such an association with legalisation of euthanasia recently in Victoria as well as legalisation of abortion in several states of Australia in the last few years,” he said.

“It will offer fellowship for Catholic doctors and allied health professionals throughout the country and more links to those in other countries. It will also link us more to the pope, bishops and clergy.”

One of the main aims of the new body would be to provide support to Catholic doctors who often feel isolated, to simplify communication and provide a single voice with other health care organisations.

“It is my hope that once well established, this body will be effective; a strong voice on matters of critical importance (including euthanasia) that is not only heard, but is sought and respected by policy and decision-makers,” group chief executive at Mater Misericordiae Ltd Dr Shane Kelly said.

Catholic Health Australia chief executive officer Suzanne Greenwood, who sits on the board of the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutes in Rome, said the new association would “allow a better means of communication and involvement with the various international bodies such as the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations”.

“The new association will help to encourage a culture of encounter, and to communicate a message of hope, right across care practitioners and the Catholic services we represent,” Mrs Greenwood said.

Catholic Health Australia represents Australia’s largest non-government grouping of hospitals, aged and community care services, providing about 10 per cent of hospital and aged-care services in Australia, including about 30 per cent of private hospital care as well as about five per cent of public hospital care.

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