AMA calls on Queensland to protect patients from unscrupulous advertising

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AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid has appeared before a Queensland parliamentary committee to argue for amendments to a Bill the association says in its current form will put the public at risk of unscrupulous advertising practices.

Dr Khorshid said the Bill, in its current form, will remove the ban on cosmetic surgery testimonials.

“Testimonials can be fake or taken out of context and the limited protections in the Bill offer little comfort and will prove to be unenforceable. This is likely to lead to increased harm, complications and worse health outcomes for many consumers.”

He said the Bill has implications for the entire country as the Queensland parliament acts as the lead jurisdiction. It means that if passed by the Queensland parliament, the National Law, which is not Commonwealth law, can be enacted and implemented by each state and territory using an ‘adoption of laws’ model.

Dr Khorshid said the AMA had never been happy with the process behind the development of the Bill.

“The main consultation document released in 2018 did not even analyse the effectiveness of the scheme and the provisions in the current Bill were largely written during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when consultation was very difficult.”

Dr Khorshid said many of the changes outlined in the Bill lack any supporting evidence.

“The proposal to issue a public statement prior to the completion of an action against a practitioner is unjust and unnecessary. AHPRA [Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency] already has extensive powers to limit a doctor’s practice while a complaint is being dealt with if there is concern about serious risk to the public,” he said.

“Quite rightly, as it stands, statements are issued at the conclusion of the tribunal process. A public warning, prior to completion of the process, is a severe and non-retractable step, and the AMA believes this should only be done when the practitioner has been found to breach a code or is guilty of an offence.

“We do also not support the extension of circumstances where AHPRA and the Medical Board can issue notifications to voluntary organisations a doctor may work with. This is too broad and too far-reaching.

“At the time we said the consultation showed a complete absence of data or any analysis, lacked intellectual rigour and simply offered a grab-bag of poorly thought-out ideas and thoughts. We are seeing the results from that inadequate start in what is proposed in this Bill.”

Dr Khorshid said the AMA had also been frustrated with the short timeframe for public consultation on this legislation.

“We have been contacted by other bodies who wanted to prepare a submission against the Bill but did not have the time or resources to address the hundreds of pages of legislation and explanatory notes in the two-and-a-half-week window.

“It does raise the question, ‘Do Health Ministers actually care about proper consultation, and the stress and mental health issues this Scheme gives rise to?’”