The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has joined other medical journals to call for urgent steps to curb the threat of nuclear war and for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
An editorial, co-authored by the MJA’s Editor-in-Chief Professor Virginia Barbour, has been published in 11 of the world’s leading medical and health journals, including in the MJA today.
“As Editor-in-Chief of Australia’s premier medical journal, I believe it is right that the MJA takes a stand on this issue,” Professor Barbour said.
“We are living in a time of intense fighting in Ukraine and increased tensions on the Korean peninsula.
“These concerning developments have prompted leaders across the health and medical community to highlight that any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic for humanity.”
The MJA was pleased to join with other prominent journals to advocate for this issue, Professor Barbour said.
“It is important to see call a coordinated for action from a variety of international journals such as The Lancet, the BMJ, the New England Journal of Medicine and the JAMA,” she said.
The publication of the editorial is timely as it coincides with two key events, Professor Barbour said.
“The editorial coincides with both the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee Meeting and the 78th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan,” Professor Barbour said.
Current nuclear arms control and non-proliferation efforts are inadequate to protect the world’s population, the editorial reads.
“Progress has been disappointingly slow and the most recent NPT review conference in 2022 ended without an agreed statement,” the editorial reads.
The modernisation of nuclear weapons also poses a threat of nuclear war by design, error, or miscalculation, it reads.
“Modernisation of nuclear arsenals could increase risks: for example, hypersonic missiles decrease the time available to distinguish between an attack and a false alarm, increasing the likelihood of rapid escalation,” it reads.
The health community has a crucial role in efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war and must continue to play its part, the editorial reads.
It calls on states with nuclear weapons to adopt a no first use policy, to take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, and urges all states involved in current conflicts to pledge “publicly and unequivocally that they will not use nuclear weapons in these conflicts.”