Australia doctors have been urged to get behind a push for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons, according to a Perspective published online by the Medical Journal of Australia today.
Dr Susan Wareham, a Canberra-based general practitioner, is also a Vice-President of Medical Association for the Prevention of War (Australia) and her coworkers, Dr Margaret Beavis, President and Dr Tilman Ruff, co-president of IPPNW.
Dr Wareham told the MJA that 2015 was on-track to be a breakthrough year, with the World Medical Association General Assembly to vote on a new resolution for a ban on nuclear weapons, and "urging national medical associations to educate the public and policymakers about this overwhelming public health threat".
Three conferences held over the past 2 years have confirmed that, although advances have been made in trying to eliminate nuclear weapons, the risk of nuclear weapons use is "higher than is commonly understood".
"The risk is increasing and there is an urgent need for nuclear disarmament", Dr Wareham wrote in the MJA. "If nuclear weapons are used again, health services will be unable to respond in any significant way. Whatever health care facilities survived the attack would be overwhelmed to the point of collapse, offering little more than primitive first aid."
Additionally, further research from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concluded that "in the event of even a limited nuclear exchange, the particulate matter and smoke from burning cities would block sunlight and cause agricultural collapse, placing more than two billion people globally at risk of starvation". Doctors had always been strong advocates against the use of nuclear weapons, Dr Wareham wrote, but there was a need now for a louder voice from the Australian medical community.
"Medical voices are needed now as much as ever, to seize the opportunity while it lasts, and to help delegitimise and stigmatise these horrific devices", she wrote.
"The elimination of the worst of all weapons of mass destruction, each one of which represents a medical and humanitarian disaster of nightmare proportions, is both necessary and possible."