AN open letter signed by 199 Austrian physicians and doctors has been sent to the President of the Austrian Medical Association following the announcement of the country’s plans for criminalisation of the unvaccinated which come into force next month.
This highly significant number of doctors have accused their President of violating basic medical ethics by threatening colleagues who don’t comply with disciplinary sanction. They point out to him the duties by which physicians are bound – something many doctors employed by our very own NHS, as well as the General Medical Council itself, are in dire need of a reminder of. They refer to the three pillars of evidence-based medicine on which their calling is based and demand that their highest representative, the president of the Austrian Medical Association respect them, and if not, resign.
The English translation of the letter that follows was achieved with an auto-translator, so there may be some errors which I ask you to forgive as it is so important to read.
Open letter to the President of the Austrian Medical Association, Univ-Prof Dr Thomas Szekeres
Dear Mr President,
With your circular 325/2021 of Dec. 2, 2021, which was not addressed to the public but is now publicly available, you have violated the basic principles of evidence-based medicine and medical freedom of treatment and threatened conscientious colleagues with blanket disciplinary sanctions. You have specified how you believe medical professional duty should be defined. When a medical association president acts in this way, we lose our credibility and trustworthiness with our patients.
You write without citing any sources for your assertion: ‘In the context of the current pandemic, it may be clarified that, based on the available data, from a scientific point of view and with reference to recommendations of the National Vaccination Panel in this regard, there is currently no reason in principle to advise patients against vaccination against Covid-19’.
We comment on this statement as follows: The data situation with regard to the efficacy and safety of the Covid-19 vaccines available in Austria is by no means uniform and unambiguous and is also subject to permanent change. While until a few weeks ago it was weeks ago, it was assumed that the basic Covid-19 vaccination provided protection against the disease, it has since been scientifically proven that this protection is only relevant in severe cases of the disease, and that it loses statistical significance after six to seven months at the latest.
Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that both vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons can pass on the infection equally. The argument that vaccination can achieve ‘herd immunity’ is therefore obsolete. Whether booster vaccination can achieve more extensive protection is uncertain. The studies only cover a few weeks and make it clear that the absolute effects are marginal at best and that effects are marginal at best and will certainly not change the overall course of the pandemic. This is particularly evident from the fact that no correlation between vaccination rate and incidence can be demonstrated.
In addition, SARS-CoV-2 is highly mutagenic, and a reduced and rapidly diminishing effect of vaccination has already been shown against the currently still prevalent Delta variant. Whether there is any protection at all against the currently spreading omicron variant is unknown.
The protective effect of Covid-19 vaccination is relevant, if at all, only for persons at high risk of severe course for COVID-19. Approximately 98 per cent of those severely affected by COVID- 19 have at least one relevant pre-existing or concomitant disease. The average age of those affected is over 80 years. Healthy individuals younger than 65 years with no risk factors are generally not affected by a severe course of Covid-19 (with hospitalisation, intensive care or death). Therefore, in these individuals, the risks from vaccination very likely outweigh the potential benefits. At the very least, these individuals must be allowed a free decision to vaccinate after honest and comprehensive medical education.
The number of reported side effects of Covid-19 vaccines can only be described as frightening (607,283 reports for Comirnaty alone, as of December 9, 2021), even if causality remains unverifiable for the individual case. So far, nine ‘red-hand’ letters have already been sent out, warning of serious side effects and even deaths. The blanket declaration of vaccines as ‘safe’ by the medical association, politicians and the media thus reveals itself to be unscientific propaganda.
Physicians must not only be allowed to point out a possible disproportion between the benefits and harms of Covid-19 vaccination, but they are also obliged by medical ethics and the Geneva Vow to inform their patients about the numerous possible side effects and risks of vaccination.
The medical profession, and thus of course the medical association, is committed to evidence-based medicine. In addition to the pillar of available study evidence, evidence- based medicine includes the equally important pillars of ‘physician clinical expertise’ and ‘patient values’. The pillar of ‘physician clinical expertise’ is mandatory for evidence-based medical action, because study evidence and guidelines (the first pillar of evidence-based medicine) are always obtained from and oriented toward patient or subject populations, and not toward individual patients. A transferability to the individual patient is never 100 per cent given and requires the weighing assessment by an experienced physician. For this reason, medical guidelines are also not legally binding for the treatment of individual people. The third pillar, the patient’s values, is just as indispensable as the first two pillars, because each person is entitled to the final say as to which medical measures are carried out on his or her body, soul and spirit. For this purpose, there is, among other things, the personal living will, which places individual patient decisions above all else, beyond any science.
We call upon you, Mr President, as the highest representative of the Austrian medical profession, to respect the basic principles of evidence-based medical treatment and to protect the individual freedom of treatment that underlies all medical practice. This applies in particular to vaccination with conditionally approved vaccines, about whose efficacy and side effects a final judgment is not yet possible, otherwise the approval would not have been granted only conditionally.
As physicians, we have vowed to provide our patients – whether they are sick people seeking help or healthy people coming for advice – with comprehensive and balanced advice to the best of our knowledge and belief. This consultation takes into account both the available scientific knowledge, which in the field of medicine is never so clear that it can be applied to all patients across the board, as well as our own clinical experience gained through studies and many years of professional experience, and the wishes of our patients. The result of the consultation is always an individual one and it has been covered by the medical freedom of treatment for thousands of years.
So, conversely, medical malpractice must always be analysed on an individual basis. Malpractice occurs when a medical measure is carried out or omitted without appropriate information and the patient is harmed as a result. Each case of malpractice must be examined and proven with regard to these criteria. It is contrary to all medical ethics and the basic principles of patient-centred, evidence-based medicine for a chamber president to threaten a blanket disciplinary review and sanction for a specific, individual consultation outcome between physicians and patients.
Mr President, you have done lasting damage to the reputation and self-image of the medical profession by your letter of 2.12.2021. We hereby demand that you publicly revoke your letter of 2.12.2021 or immediately resign as President of the Chamber.
Further, we announce that we will not be intimidated by you or any other chamber officials with similar sentiments. We will continue to treat our patients to the best of our knowledge and belief, based on the Geneva Vow and the freedom of medical treatment, and will decide individually with each patient, also taking into account psychiatric contraindications, whether vaccination against Covid-19 is appropriate or not.
The full list of signatories can be found here.