Facebook Twitter

Some MDs won’t treat smokers

SHARE Some MDs won’t treat smokers

SYDNEY — Some Australian doctors are refusing to perform transplants and other potentially life-saving operations on smokers on medical and moral grounds, a surgeon said Thursday.

Dr. Greg Snell, respiratory surgeon at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital, told Australian radio that the decision was medical, moral and necessary in "public relations" terms to protect the country's organ donor system.

But his remarks sparked a debate on how the medical profession should handle smokers who do not mend their ways, with a spokesman for the Australian Medical Association (AMA) saying that such decisions should only be made on medical grounds.

"We have a very strict policy that we do not offer lung transplantations to people who smoke or have any other substance abuse in the last six months," Snell told the radio.

He described organ donation as a very limited resource and the donation program as a precious gift.

"We really have to be aware that one person smoking after a lung transplant can have such a negative impact against hospital staff and the general public that it can crash the program," he said. "It's really a limited supply question for lung transplantation or other transplant surgery."

But Dr. Michael Sedgley, of the AMA, which represents doctors, said treatment decisions should not be based on moral arguments.

"It is unconscionable. We cannot judge our patients in that way," he said. "There are situations where if smoking causes complications with surgery, doctors are quite entitled to make judgments on health grounds."