Protests against RCSI actions in Bahrain

The Irish Times – Thursday, June 23, 2011
Treatment of medics in Bahrain

Madam, – I write as a graduate and former member of the academic staff of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) and as one who has written several books and many articles upholding the proud traditions of these institutions, to express my sadness and sense of shame, indeed betrayal, at seeing the presidents of both these institutions on a dais above the 1784 motto of RCSI Consilio Manuque (Scholarship and Dexterity) and beneath the banner “Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister” at the graduation ceremony of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland- Medical University of Bahrain (RCSI Bahrain) on June 13th, 2011.

This action betrays the reality that doctors, some of whom are graduates of RCSI, and nurses are in prison where some have been tortured and all of who face serious sentences, while the Royal Colleges excuse themselves from lending support by claiming to be non-political organisations.

Such an attitude is anathema to those of us who believe that the traditions of medicine must be upheld however unpleasant the consequence, which in this case is simply a large investment by RCSI in the medical school in Bahrain.

I can do little other than protest to the council and fellows of RCSI but I can express my concern in a more direct way to RCPI by resigning as a fellow. I have today written to the president, Dr John Donohoe tendering my resignation in protest against the failure of either Royal College to support colleagues who have been prevented from performing the fundamental duty that doctors are trained for, namely treating the sick and wounded.

I hope others who share my sentiments and who are fellows of both colleges might show their disapproval by acting accordingly. – Yours, etc,

FRCP(Lond), FRCP(Edin),
Clifton Terrace,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Madam, – It has been confirmed to me by the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Irish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Niall Holohan, attended a graduation ceremony in Bahrain of students attending the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland’s Bahrain college in company with the Bahraini Prime Minister on June 13th. As he is not yet accredited to Bahrain, the department has stated he attended in a private capacity. I find it disturbing that this took place while Irish-educated medics are being persecuted for doing their humane work in treating the demonstrators who were violently dispersed from Pearl Square during the demonstrations there.

I support Prof MX FitzGerald’s call (June 22nd) requesting Irish medical organisations to speak up on behalf on their colleagues. I also ask that Irish diplomats might take on board Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore’s assertion “that the relationship between the RCSI and the Government of Bahrain would be very much a matter for those parties themselves” when invited to such occasions and not undermine that stance.

I must also ask whether the NUI Senate should allow degrees to be awarded in Bahrain by the RCSI when NUI graduates are being vindictively pursued and oppressed by the monarchy of that country while doing precisely the work they were trained to do, and did in our hospitals. Finally, the RCSI are clearly caught in a sticky situation and have students to whom they have responsibilities. I hope they might at least reconsider their proximity to the government in Bahrain and take an ethical stance commensurate with the profession in which, for considerable fees, they are instructing their students. – Yours, etc,

Leinster Park,
Harold’s Cross,
Dublin 6W.