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Should clinicians boycott Australian immigration detention?
  1. Ryan Essex
  1. Correspondence to Mr Ryan Essex, Sydney Health Ethics, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; ryan.essex{at}


Australian immigration detention has been called state sanctioned abuse, cruel and degrading and likened to torture. Clinicians have long worked both within the system providing healthcare and outside of it advocating for broader social and political change. It has now been over 25 years and little, if anything, has changed. The government has continued to consolidate power to enforce these policies and has continued to attempt to silence dissent. It was in this context that a boycott was raised as a possible course of action. Despite discussions among the healthcare community about the merits of such action, a number of questions have been overlooked. In this article, I will examine whether a boycott is both ethical and feasible. Taking into account the costs and benefits of current engagement and the potential impact of a boycott, more specifically the potential it has to further harm those detained, I conclude that under current circumstance a boycott cannot be justified. This however does not mean that a boycott should be dismissed completely or that the status quo should be accepted. I discuss potential ways forward for those seeking change.

  • ethics
  • public health ethics
  • rights
  • clinical ethics

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.