History of the Working Party on Ethical issues
At the WONCA Europe Conference 2000 in Vienna, Austria, the programme contained a special symposium entitled Challenges to our Professional attitudes. This full day symposium covered areas and time periods from the past to the present time where the medical profession in general or individual colleagues in particular have been or were involved in developments based on unique political situations: the Holocaust in Europe, the Apartheid in South Africa, torture of prisoners in areas of war, or the death penalty in the United States. Experts and eyewitnesses of these developments gave stunning insight into the circumstances how physicians could get involved and sometimes were even eager to get involved.
This symposium attracted a full auditorium and it was Prof Lotte Newman, the former chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the former president of SIMG/ WONCA Europe who suggested that a Special Interest Group (SIG) on ethical issues in General Practice/Family Medicine be founded. This suggestion was picked up by the WONCA World executive and Prof Lotte Newman and Prof Manfred Maier were appointed convenors of this newly founded WONCA interest group.
The world conference 2001 in Durban, South Africa, was used to build a list of colleagues interested in participating actively in this new Special Interest Group. In 2002, at the occasion of the WONCA Europe conference, in London, the group gathered to formulate the terms of reference: “to attempt to illustrate the nature of ethical issues encountered by WONCA and its members and to explore the principles, values and beliefs which inform decisions”.
Since then, the proceedings of the special symposium from WONCA Europe Vienna 2000 were published. The list of interested colleagues increases continuously and the group has tried to identify GP working groups on ethical issues around the globe. In addition, the group has reviewed the teaching situation for professional attitudes worldwide, has introduced a forum for discussion of ethical issues and tries to motivate colleagues to initiate similar activities back home in their association or home country. These activities are promoted at almost every WONCA Europe conference and all WONCA world conferences by organizing a special symposium on selected topics such as inequities in health, conflicts of interests, end of life care, etc. So far, the activities of the group, which became a Working Party at the WONCA world conference 2010, in Cancun, Mexico, usually attract an interested crowd. After the retirement of Prof Lotte Newman, Prof Micky Weingarten from Israel jumped in and was a tremendous help in every way to keep the Working Party running and to make it attractive for colleagues globally.