If you’ve been to hospital recently, say for an operation, you’ll know about the form you are always given to sign before any serious procedure can happen. It informs you about the procedure, why the doctor recommends it and the expected benefits, risks and side effects. Ultimately, it’s your choice to decide what is done to you.
The concept of fully informed consent helps illustrate why many nurses are still opposed to the ‘revised’ Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP/TPPA), now renamed Comprehensive and Progressive TPP (CPTPP). We are opposed because we still don’t know what’s in it for a start!
There has been no attempt to gain the consent of New Zealanders, for this revised CPTPP. Every public poll on the previous deal found a majority of people opposed to it. In effect we are all being experimented on. We have not been given any detail about the health risks that might come with the new CPTPP.
It’s because of this nurses are absolutely clear about the need for the Government to publish the ‘secret papers’, engage the relevant experts and commission a full impact assessment on the health of New Zealanders – before signing.
We’re concerned about what the CPTPP will mean for access to affordable medicines – especially for the revolutionary new drugs now in the pipeline, called biologics, which hold the promise of curing diseases like arthritis and some cancers.
We’re concerned that the agreement may have been negotiated in a way which breaches the Treaty of Waitangi, and in addition could undermine Māori health efforts
We’re concerned that an agreement containing ISDS provisions, which allows investors of big companies to sue whole countries, will limit our ability to tackle the health epidemics of the 21st century – non-communicable diseases like alcohol-related harm, or diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity.
And we’re concerned that the CPTPP will undermine the social determinants which sustain good health.
In 2016, the NZ First MPs on the select committee considering the deal told Parliament, “The TPP will serve only to grow income inequality in New Zealand”. The Labour MPs on the committee said, “The best available analysis suggests that it is likely to lead to a reduction in the number of jobs”.
These things would harm the health of our population. And the agreement makes no reference to protecting health from climate change, potentially the greatest public health threat we are faced with today.
After refusing to endorse the TPPA before the election, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern now says New Zealand will sign up to the deal at a ministerial meeting in Chile next month.
We know that some of the provisions in the original text which threatened public health have been the subject of further negotiations.
But those harmful provisions which we’re told have been addressed are only “suspended”. They have not been removed from the agreement, and could be reactivated in future. We also don’t know how they’ve been ‘fixed’ so to speak.
Nursing requires a deep commitment to the health and well-being of others. So when nurses say we’re worried about the CPTPP people tend to listen.
This is why the New Zealand Nurses Organisation added our name to a joint letter from health professionals to Jacinda Ardern in November to give an assurance about her bottom-lines for health.
We haven’t had that assurance yet.
So that’s why the NZNO president is joining the Wellington edition of the nationwide public meetings of concerned citizens on the 14th of February and the NZNO Kaiwhakahaere is in support of this action.
And until we know exactly what’s about to be done to our country’s health by the CPTPP, we do not give our consent.
Grant Brookes (NZNO President) & Kerri Nuku (NZNO Kaiwhakahaere)