The Cape Byron Lighthouse Declaration: a ‘suspended’ guide to making healthcare great again

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Cape Byron Lighthouse stands proudly on Australia’s most easterly point sending a whopping two million candelas of light, 50 kilometres out to sea each night. It is our brightest lighthouse and arguably Australia’s most famous. As the first lighthouse to welcome the dawn of a new day, each year thousands make the pilgrimage to watch the sunrise.

Lighthouses have served mariners for centuries, warning of nearby dangers. Cape Byron is no exception, guiding the route of countless mariners with its beams offering security and guidance. It seems, therefore, a fitting place for three resolute Australian health professionals, to gather and make a declaration against the censorship, coercion, and medical tyranny of the past three years.

These three would call themselves ordinary Australians, but when you hear their stories, you realise they are anything but. Critical care and anaesthesia specialist doctor Paul Oosterhuis, mental healthcare doctor Robert Brennan, and ‘former psychologist’ Ros Nealon-Cook did not know each other three years ago, but their paths brought them to the same point in September 2021. And that point can be described with one word: suspended. Their crime? Speaking out against Australia’s Covid pandemic response.

Rather than step back into the shadows, they have instead renewed their vows to stand and propose a blueprint for the redemption of healthcare in The Cape Byron Lighthouse Declaration.

Each of their stories is different and you can listen to a full version online, but I’ll give you the abridged version here. Dr. Brennan was suspended following complaints for distributing flyers and his association with the Covid Medical Network (now Australian Medical Network). Dr. Oosterhuis was suspended following anonymous complaints regarding his social media posts. And Ros Nealon-Cook was suspended following ten complaints about a video she released outlining serious harm to children due to the Australian government’s pandemic response measures.

Hardly crimes of the century. In fact, not crimes at all.

When you consider that one of AHPRA’s purposes is to ‘protect the public’ what possible motive could there be for suspending a qualified, experienced, and respected health practitioner for expressing their professional opinion in the context of a health issue?

I digress.

Ros Nealon-Cook describes how these three found each other and the idea for the declaration:

‘We were all suspended within several days of each other in September 2021 and were all targeted. We became sort of like war buddies. Quite draconian measures were used by AHPRA, by the boards, by the Health Care Complaints Commission, and all these different tentacles of the government. We were threatened with criminal action and all sorts of things. It was just this constant campaign of bullying… They even came after me for a psychiatric evaluation, which I didn’t go to, but they did on me by transcribing interviews.’

Yep, you read that right: a psychiatric evaluation was done on a healthcare practitioner, without them even being there.

(Who are these people?!)

Nealon-Cook continues, ‘The idea for the declaration started as a bit of a joke, and one day I just said to Paul and Robert, “Oh for goodness sake, let’s do our own Great Barrington declaration… but we’ll make it all about the censorship and bullying of health professionals.” We had a bit of a laugh about it, and that was it.’

But, as many ideas do, the idea germinated. So, on the dawn of January 22, 2023, the Cape Byron Lighthouse Declaration was born. It states:

  • All silencing and censorship by bureaucrats and regulators, including of experienced practitioners and scientists must stop. There must be respect for every individual’s right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • The right to ‘informed’ consent must be upheld – and must include being fully informed of relevant risks, as well as any benefits (proven or presumed).
  • Mandates and other forms of medical coercion are unethical – and must cease. Bodily autonomy is the inalienable right of every individual – and must be respected.
  • There is an urgent need for transparency and reform in science and medicine and to halt the increasing globalisation of public health. We demand the restoration of voice and decision power to individual practitioners – and those they serve.

Since its launch a few weeks ago, the declaration has received international attention and signatures from around the world including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the UK, and the US with numbers increasing daily.

Three years ago, I could not have conceived we would need such a declaration. But the Covid years have revealed the diseased underbelly of healthcare and its powerful influences. Healthcare, nor the people it serves, cannot thrive in the presence of censorship, coercion, and unethical behaviour. So, the time has come to remind ourselves, our governments, and our leaders of the core foundations.

If the stories of these three health professionals demonstrate anything, it is that silencing and censorship do not work. Eventually the dam wall breaks and such ‘ordinary people’ break through. ‘We didn’t die,’ says Oosterhuis. ‘We got louder.’

‘Paul Rob and I, we’re just normal people,’ says Nealon-Cook. ‘We’re not media trained, we fumble our words and stumble along. But would we do it again? Absolutely. Because we have to. We have to do this, and we’ve lost everything. We’ve lost our careers. We’ve lost our reputations. We’ve lost friends. It’s had really serious impacts on family. But this is so important, and we would do it again and again and again.

‘People keep saying to all of us, “Oh you’re so brave. I could never do that.” I wasn’t brave. I was terrified when I did it, but I’m more terrified of what will happen if we don’t turn this around. Because potentially we’re going to be living in a world where there’s complete censorship, of any debate, any scientific debate, any expertise that doesn’t fit in with the narrative.’

The call to action is clear.

‘There’s a lot of people that are still waiting for this to be solved by someone else. They’re still waiting for the hero on the white charger or the likes,’ says Nealon-Cook. ‘The key piece is that everyone needs to stand up. And the sooner that everyone does that the sooner this is all over.’

This article is a republication of an article originally published here by the Spectator Australia.

You can read and sign The Cape Byron Lighthouse Declaration here.

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  • Dr Julie Sladden

    Julie Sladden is a doctor and writer with over 25 years clinical experience across multiple disciplines in Australia and the UK. She is a passionate advocate for professionalism, ethics and transparency in healthcare.

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