Dear Prime MInister,

The Pacific Solution is working. The number of unscheduled boat arrivals has slowed. This has come about by a policy which incarcerates refugees who arrive by boat, including children, in harsh conditions on Manus Island or Nauru.

The basis of the Pacific Solution seems to be that future asylum seekers will be deterred from coming by boat because they know that harsh mistreatment awaits them.

If Manus Island and Nauru were pleasant places where families thrive in good health in an untroubled and nurturing environment the deterrent effect would of course not exist. 

We understand that, despite vociferous denials, Manus and Nauru have repeatedly been shown to be unsafe places and this is in fact part of the strategy.

Effectively then one group of people is being mistreated for the benefit of another group which might otherwise undertake a perilous journey by boat from an Asian port.

We are confident that our government would not condone participation in research or treatment without the consent of persons who themselves can derive no benefit, even if those persons were unlikely to be harmed in the process.

The problem with this strategy is that it is unethical to subject people who have not provided consent to harsh treatment for the benefit of others. The extent of the benefit to the other group is irrelevant. The people being sent to these islands have not consented to be used for the government’s deterrent purpose.

In medical research these principles are laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki. An example of such ethical principles operating in healthcare is in organ donation. A person with two good kidneys cannot be conscripted without consent to donate one kidney for transplantation even when that transplant would likely be lifesaving. The principle is the same. In the current government offshore detention strategy people, particularly children, are placed at serious risk of mental and physical health problems to protect others.

We are confident that our government would not condone participation in research or treatment without the consent of persons who themselves can derive no benefit, even if those persons were unlikely to be harmed in the process. When innocent people are clearly being harmed without consent for the benefit of others the ethical implications are clear.

Ethical principles are not established by legislation but are identified as self-evident truths. We fail to understand how government decisions can bypass or negate well established and universally recognised ethical principles.

The argument that refugee security assessment procedures keep people on these islands is spurious. These processes can readily be undertaken in Australia.

For our government to be seen to follow well established ethical principles, the forced detention of asylum seekers in environments with a risk of harm must cease.

Signed by:

  1. Emeritus Professor Kim Oates AM, University of Sydney
  2. Professor David Isaacs, University of Sydney
  3. Dr Sue Packer AM, Community Paediatrician, ACT
  4. Professor John Ziegler AM, School of Women’s & Children’s Health, UNSW
  5. Dr Avril Alba, University of Sydney
  6. Scientia Professor David A. Cooper AO, Director, Kirby Institute, UNSW
  7. Professor David Burgner, Paediatrician, Melbourne
  8. Dr Hilton Immerman OAM, UNSW
  9. Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman AO, University of Sydney
  10. Dr Alex Wodak AM, President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Director, Australia21
  11. Deborah Linker
  12. Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, Sydney Jewish Museum
  13. Prof Louise Baur AM, University of Sydney
  14. Joanna Kalowski, Mediator and facilitator
  15. Dr Stephen Adelstein, Clinical Immunologist, Sydney
  16. Dr Sue Woolfenden, Community/Developmental Paediatrician, UNSW
  17. Dr Sarah Dalton, Paediatric Emergency Physician, Sydney
  18. Professor Kevin Forsyth, Academic paediatrician
  19. Associate Professor Alyson Kakakios OAM, University of Sydney
  20. Professor Andrew Carr, Head of Clinical Research, AMR, St Vincent’s Hospital, and UNSW
  21. Heather Mitchell, Actress
  22. Professor Andrew Rosenberg, Head of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Sydney
  23. Dr Joseph Toltz, Musicology Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney
  24. Professor Ian Kerridge, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney
  25. Professor Stuart Tangye, Head, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
  26. Professor Wayne Hall, Director, Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, University of Queensland
  27. Professor Merrilyn Walton  AM, School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, University  of  Sydney
  28. Dr Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist
  29. Dr Tri Giang Phan, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
  30. Professor Jonathan Sprent FAA FRS
  31. Rodrigo Vazquez-Lombardi, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
  32. Dr Elissa Deenick, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
  33. Dr. Christopher Sundling, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  34. Irving Wallach, Barrister, Forbes Chambers, Sydney
  35. Dr David Langley
  36. Professor Mark Ferson, UNSW
  37. Dr Cindy Ma, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW
  38. Claudia Loetsch, PhD candidate, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney
  39. Dr Vinny Mamo
  40. Dr Genevieve Brady
  41. Professor Tuan V. Nguyen, UNSW and University of Technology Sydney
  42. Professor Philip Boyce, University of Sydney
  43. Martin Mcgrath, Director of Photography, ACS
  44. Dr Dimitra Tzioumi, Paediatrician
  45. Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland OAM, Dept. of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, University of Sydney
  46. John Kaldor, Scientia Professor, Kirby Institute, UNSW
  47. A/Professor Anne Mijch OAM, Monash University
  48. Dr Miranda Johnson, Department of History, University of Sydney
  49. Debbie Burnett, Immunology Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, UNSW
  50. Professor Jenny Gunton, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney
  51. Jeffrey B. Kamins, Senior Rabbi, Arno & Hella Seefeldt Rabbinic Chair, Emanuel Synagogue
  52. Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, Emanuel Synagogue
  53. Dr Paul Gray, Paediatric Immunologist, Sydney
  54. Son Nghiem, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Health & Biomedical ‎Innovation, QUT
  55. Professor Lynne Madden, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, School of Medicine, UND, Sydney
  56. Professor Fiona Stanley AC, UWA and University of Melbourne, Patron of Telethon Kids Institute
  57. Laureate Professor Nick Talley, RACP President
  58. Alfred Linker, Solicitor & Regional General Counsel
  59. Linh Anh Le, University of Adelaide
  60. Associate Professor Julian Grant, Flinders University
  61. Dr Andrew Kelly, Paediatric Cardiologist, Adelaide, South Australia
  62. Dr Arjun Rao, Paediatric Emergency Physician
  63. Ansha Malik, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  64. Mahmoud Abdelatti, Pharmacist, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  65. Thu Phuong Dinh Thi, School of Psychology, Flinders University
  66. Dr Marcel Batten, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  67. Dr Tatyana Chtanova, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  68. Dr Dat Ma, University of Queensland
  69. Dr Lam Tran, Dentist, Forest Lake, Queensland
  70. Dr Deirdre White, Paediatrician, South Australia
  71. Dr David Everett, Consultant Paediatrician, Adelaide
  72. Dr Nicola Poplawski, Paediatrician and Clinical Geneticist, Adelaide
  73. Professor Jon Jureidini, Disciplines of Psychiatry and Paediatrics, University of Adelaide
  74. Professor John Carlin, University of Melbourne
  75. Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health, The University of Sydney

Note: The Declaration of Helsinki is a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation developed for the medical community by the World Medical Association. It is widely regarded as the cornerstone document on human research ethics.