government goes too far over sars

Wednesday, 23 April 2003 NSWCCL media release: 11/2003


President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Mr Cameron Murphy, today criticised the NSW Government decision to list SARS as a “Category 4 medical condition” under the Public Health Act as going too far too fast. 

Mr Murphy said:-- 

“This is like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. It will allow the police to arrest people who refuse medical treatment.” 

“While SARS is a significant problem in Southeast Asia and Canada we are yet to have any serious complications from it in Australia.” 

“This is the most extreme measure that can be taken by government and it is simply not justified in Australia. We have no SARS epidemic here and no one that is refusing medical treatment. ” 

“Most people will voluntarily quarantine themselves and seek medical assistance if they suspect they have SARS. There is no need for this heavy handed response from government.” 

“In over twenty years of these types of epidemics, across three continents, the only case I am aware of where someone has refused treatment is the Australian case of ‘Sharleen’ - the sexworker who refused treatment for HIV/AIDS in the early 1980’s.” 

“Refusal of treatment is not a problem and certainly does not require this sort of approach.” 

“There is not enough scientific or medical evidence available about SARS to be taking these drastic decisions. This resembles the panic we saw from some governments at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” 

“I would hate to see a situation where people are arrested and locked up just because they have the common cold and someone mistakes it for SARS.”

For further information contact: 

Cameron Murphy -- NSWCCL, President on 0411-769-769