Prof. Iain Benson (Lawyer) | Ethical problems of forced experimental drugs

IN C19 CHAMPIONS

Australian Lawyer Iain Benson on the ethical problems involved with the forced use of experimental drugs

Rumble | The COVID Inquiry 2.0 is a cross-party, non-parliamentary inquiry held on the 17th August 2022

Professor Iain Benson, discusses medical ethics, not only the problems, but the solutions. He has four degrees, including a PhD. He’s professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, Australia. He’s published many academic articles and book chapters, work cited by both the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and in April 2019, the High Court of Gauteng, which is in Johannesburg, South Africa. He discusses the ethical problems involved with the forced use of experimental drugs. 

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
We now have the pleasure of introducing Professor Iain Benson, and he’s going to be discussing medical ethics, and, not only the problem there, but the solutions. So, he has four degrees, including a PhD. He’s professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, Australia, which is in Sydney. And Professor Benson is a published poet and regularly records as a musician playing session, penny-whistle and blues harmonica. He’s the proud father of seven children and six grandchildren. So that, I think, really says, this is a well-rounded professor, and he’s going to be talking, as I said, on medical ethics. He’s published many academic articles and book chapters, work cited by both the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and in April 2019, the High Court of Gauteng, which is in Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s going to be looking at the ethical problems involved with the forced use of experimental drugs. Thank you, Professor Benson.

Professor Iain Benson:
Well, thanks for having me.

First of all, I’d like to see how important I think the work is that you’re doing here, because one of the extraordinary realities of this last couple of years that we’ve been in around the world is that, there’s been a real suppression of mainstream discussion about some of these concepts. And, I decided to throw myself into this discussion because I thought there was insufficient attention to some key points. And I want to raise some of those with you today, under two headings, essentially.

The first concerns about medicine, and the second concerns about, what I styled, law and government.

I’ll cover the solutions as they can be stated as I go. But, it’s really very, very important that there be, not just legislative responses to the deficiencies that have been identified, but that there be civil society responses, because what develops in cultures is not simply driven by the state and government. It has to also come from the people. And, in my view, there really desperately needs to be a civil society response to the kind of massive problems that the COVID period, the last two and a half years, has disclosed.

So, first of all, concerns about medicine. I’ve got five key points to make here, and then some subsidiary ones. Medical ethics requires privacy of medical information and physician patient confidentiality. This did not occur with respect to COVID in Australia, and exemption grants given by physicians were reviewed and records taken by AHPRA, which is the Australian Health Practitioner’s Regulatory Authority. I haven’t been part of your conversation the last while, so I don’t know if other people have commented on these things. But AHPRA’s conduct has been quite startling in relation to the way they’ve hounded physicians and interfered with their records.

There’s also a general problem of disclosure of private medical status to third parties. It was felt completely appropriate under the way things were framed for pubs and restaurants to require disclosure of status of one’s vaccine status, when in fact, there may be other aspects of their condition that are completely relevant to the question of transmission threat, if there was one. But that was never raised. So for example, if one had, as many people have, recovered from COVID, this isn’t captured by the simple question whether or not you’ve been vaccinated. Patient notes were taken by AHPRA on what looks, in many instances, like simple fishing expeditions, looking for information that they could then use to go after their credentials of physicians. There’s a general chill on the medical profession that is quite unconscionable and went to the heart of the expertise that physicians have as practitioners of an ancient art that allowed them a measure of their own research independence and formation of views.

Second point, risk assessment is a personal matter between a patient and his or her physician. Doctors’ views on masks and risks regarding vaccines were taken away from doctors. Old people were not allowed to choose to visit grandchildren if they wanted to take the risk to do so. Normally, in medical matters, we, as free citizens, have the choice of making risk determinations. Why would a friend of mine who died during the COVID period in palliative care have been denied visitors? He was dying. What possible rationale could there have been for denial of visitation? These absurd rules were cruel, failed to accord dignity to the person, failed to understand properly the nature of a community or even basic human relationships.

And they were common. They were most graphic in the Australian government’s quite ridiculous overreach in banning international travel. This kind of interference with a fundamental human right, namely mobility, seemed to pass without a lot of citizen pushback. But I think, now, you probably have a population that’s suffering in some measure from post traumatic stress disorder, because of their difficulty in even raising concerns. There’s so many concerns from so many different angles.

Third, medical ethics requires that the patient be able to consent to treatments based upon informed consent. But there was insufficient objective information on risks. In order to make a decision about whether or not to take a particular medication, particularly a new one, you need to know what’s in it. And, this product had no proper information on short, medium or long term risks. The companies asked for and astonishingly got indemnities indicating that they thought there might be a risk, and all of these long, medium and short-term risks were unknown. Therefore, how could a physician, doing their job properly, adequately inform the patient of risks, when they themselves didn’t even know what was really in these medications?

The basic promise of medicine is for the physician to provide sufficient information for the patient to make an informed consensual decision. And that was denied. I know of physicians who, in good conscience, thought that they didn’t have adequate background information, and they gave exemptions as a result. And what happened was, their exemptions were overturned by AHPRA, and the physicians lost their jobs. This is unconscionable interference with the practise of medicine by the state, acting through an organisation, the Australian Health Practitioner’s Regulatory Authority, made up in large measure of nonmedical practitioners.

Internationally recognised standards reject the forced use of experimental drugs. The Nuremberg Code makes it very clear that experimental drugs, those that are not properly tested, including on animals, simply should not be forced upon people, and yet, this happened in large measure. Interestingly, AHPRA, when asked by several physicians I know, whether they followed the Nuremberg Code, did not answer.

Medicine is not competent by itself to make policy decisions regarding the economy, the importance of civil society, and the role of civic associations, such as religions. And yet, we saw quite ludicrous restrictions on such things, as the distinction between wind instruments and reed instruments for musicians in church choirs. I mean, this would be a satire and laughable, where it not in fact promulgated by regulatory officials. In my case, playing both the penny-whistle and the harmonica, I was playing a wind instrument and a reed instrument, and depending on the song, had to stand at different distances from fellow musicians, if I was following the law. Well, of course, the law is an ass in this circumstance and shouldn’t be followed.

TB is contagious, in fact, far more contagious and dangerous than COVID, but we do not allow general inquiries by the public as to whether or not we are infectious with TB. In fact, the arbitrariness that existed with respect to the entire COVID medical regimen was astonishing, and that’s why it was brought into disrepute, not only by those trying to use the medical system, but those functioning within it, nurses and doctors. Examples would be allowing them withdrawing protection for anaphylaxis. The rules were constantly changing, and one physician friend of mine said the entire area was simply ad hoc, that there was a tightening down on the rules, in relation to the take up of the vaccinations, and this was not based on science.

Reducing the period of time for COVID recovery efficacy from six months to three is a good example of this, as is the two-metre rule for so-called social distancing. Mask wearing was proven completely ineffective as a public health measure, particularly outdoors, yet was done, as one official said, “to create fear and control in the population, so that they were encouraged to take vaccinations“. Well, this is a manipulative and coercive approach, has nothing to do with science. It should be castigated.

Vaccine injuries have occurred to many, but few physicians are open to admitting causation. One person I know very well has been completely unsuccessful to find a medical explanation for serious vaccine damage that she has. And recently, a neurologist suggests that she take acceptance therapy. Well, acceptance therapy is hardly a proper medical response to an illness. Underreporting of adverse vaccine effects, caused by either laziness of the physicians or the fact that there’s no money in it, or that it was just too much work, needs to be changed by penalties being attached to such failure. That’s a solution attached to an observation.

Politicians and medical bureaucrats, and those involved in licencing or regulation or decision making, must be required to declare conflicts of interest with significant penalties for failure to do so. That’s another solution suggestion.

That ends the section I have on medicine. Do you want me to answer questions at this stage on medicine, or move to the law section?

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
Move to the law please, Professor, yeah.

Professor Iain Benson:
Okay. Is the pace all right, or am I going too fast?

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
This is good. Very effective.

Professor Iain Benson:
Okay. Concerns about law and government. Emergency measures must not unduly restrict fundamental rights. There’s a problem, however, in Australia with what one might call a culture of legal positivism, which makes many Australian lawyers and judges unwilling to recognise fundamental rights, including liberty, mobility, expression, conscience, assembly and religion. A failure to domesticate fully Australia’s international obligations does not mean that fundamental rights do not exist. To argue this way discloses an impoverished conception of law and rights, as one of Australia’s great international lawyers, the late James Crawford, noted in his most recent edition of his textbook.

Emergency health measures must be strictly limited with a judicial requirement of overview of the evidence, upon which a first emergency declaration is made, with the onus, clearly, being on the health authorities and government, to reduce the evidence upon which they rely. There needs to be transparency. Avoiding scrutiny of the evidence, behind emergency declarations done by way of regulation, rather than legislative review, and claiming Cabinet privilege, as happened in the New South Wales decision, very clearly in Kassam and Henry, should not be acceptable, where matters of fundamental citizen liberties are concerned. There needs to be legislative attention to this lacuna.

Emergency powers must be reviewed before the legislature at the earliest opportunity by a cross-party committee made up of and advised by experts outside of medicine, as well as medically trained individuals, and not made up of merely party political people, who have not themselves made full disclosure of conflicts of interest.

No extensions should be allowed for emergency regulations, without a formal emergency powers legislative review having occurred. Lord Justice Jonathan Sumption in the UK observed that Boris Johnson had chosen to go by way of regulation, rather than alleged proper legislative review, in order to avoid proper analysis of the evidence in the House. Well, this pattern has been followed by Jacinda Ardern, Justin Trudeau, and here in Australia, and it needs to be identified as a problem.


No pandemic or emergencies shall be declared, or should be declared, without independent Australian-based evaluation of the lethality, as well as the contagious nature of future health threats. Any pandemic or emergency health declaration responses must proceed upon principles that recognise focused protection, as with the Great Barrington Declaration, proportionality, the onus on the state and health officials, and minimal impairment of rights, as set out in the Siracusa Principles.

As soon as possible, Australia, the Commonwealth and state levels, should recognise any aspects of its obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, that have not yet been domesticated in Australian law.

A citizen’s health rights charter should be established at the earliest opportunity, perhaps even initiated by civil society organisations, rather than or alongside government. Now, a parallel for that suggestion is the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms, which was developed in South Africa by the religions themselves, and then argued for as a kind of interpretive document before the courts. Now, there’s a specific constitutional provision in South Africa that allows for that kind of document, Section 234 of the South African Constitution. That doesn’t exist in Australia. But the principle of a citizen’s charter on something as important as the rights of citizens in relation to healthcare should be considered in Australia.

I want to close by reading a passage that emerges from the court decisions on the COVID area, in particular, the decisions of Athavale involved in the federal court, dealing with religious celebrations in the Jewish community, and then picked up by the decision of Chief Justice Beech-Jones in Kassam and Hazzard (01) and Henry and Hazzard (02) decisions of October 2021, where the same expert evidence of Dr. Professor Jay Bhattacharya was referred to. This goes to the very heart of the entire questions before us. The question raised in the Athavale hearing Professor Bhattacharya, who was appearing as an expert was, and this is paragraph 41 of the decision, “Does COVID-19 pose a real or imminent serious threat to the health of the population?” And this is what this tenured professor of medicine at Stanford University in California said.

He opined that COVID-19 poses a real or imminent serious threat, only to the health of a specified part of the population, being the elderly and a limited number of people with certain chronic conditions. He said that age is the single most important risk factor, with a worldwide 99.95% infection survival rate for people under 70, and a 94.5% infection survival rate for people 70 and over. He said that when this vulnerable population is vaccinated against COVID-19, and protected against hospitalisation and mortality from the infection, “the disease poses little risk beyond the risk posed by other respiratory viruses.

Well, if that’s the case, then what on earth have we been doing suffering under this regime of media-induced panic for the past two and a half years, where the focus of every day’s reporting was cases, cases, cases, not a correlation between case numbers and lethality and actual death? This entire irresponsible coverage by media, and irresponsible furthering of the panic by those in positions of power in the bureaucracy and government and in health, is absolutely unconscionable, and has been the tapestry against which this entire ridiculous pandemic period has been played out.

How was that expert evidence treated by the judges? With the back of the hand. They did not place this very important evidence, which goes to the heart of the reasonableness of the declarations of emergency in the States or in the Commonwealth. They did not place that evidence against what was being alleged by the ministers of health. How in goodness name can a society, faced with fundamental attacks on all the freedoms of the citizens, uphold the system of justice that refuses to look at the actual facts that are in contention in order to determine reasonableness? If we are not determining reasonableness by looking at the medical facts in contention, and deciding which are closer to the truth, we are simply abandoning the entire system of justice to legal positivism. And that, in my view, is what’s happened and what needs to be addressed in as many ways as we can possibly do so, in Australia and around the world. Thank you very much.

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
Thank you very much. I really appreciate your blunt speaking. Thank you so much. Any questions, Craig?

Craig Kelly:
Just quickly, what’s the real solution to this from happening again? To me, it just seems as though, so much of this is being swept under the carpet. All those that have made these decisions, no one’s being held accountable. We’re ready to go for round two, except with exactly the same policies, if a similar situation occurs again.

Professor Iain Benson:
I think from a policy perspective, we’re into the kind of “how do you eat an elephant?” scenario. And I think it’s one legislative improvement bite at a time. I think you have to rank order what are the most important things to address. And I think that if the theme of transparency is placed high on the list of priorities, then you have to start going into where transparency was avoided. And things like this scope of Cabinet privilege need to be examined, because that was central in the New South Wales decision, which insulated the reasons of the health minister Hazzard from review.

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
Any more questions? A point I have, Professor, is that, the bypassing of parliamentary scrutiny and accountability, the deliberate bypassing of that, in fact, the deliberate trashing of parliamentary accountability, indicates that the motive was not to protect people’s health. The motive was to control people. It’s naked.

Professor Iain Benson:
Well, it’s what… Justice Jonathan Sumption, that extremely highly regarded retired judge in the UK, made the same observation, by pointing out that there existed, in all of these Western countries, proper, robust legislative reform for emergency powers use, but that that was bypassed deliberately by these regulatory frameworks, which were then rubber stamped at regular intervals as we saw in Australia.

I think the first thing I do is cut off that possibility by an amendment to the emergency powers legislation. I think you need to, at the state level, and wherever it appears, you need to have a limitation on the rubber stamp phenomenon. Get rid of the capacity for the avoidance of proper review. And then take it further, and say that the review has to have a particular form. I suggested in my comments what that form might be, proper cross party evaluation. And the onus needs to be expressly placed on the minister, not on the applicants. The problem with the cases we saw in New South Wales was that the judges put the onus for proof of the problem on the applicants. I think the onus should be on the state to justify its claims, not on the applicants.

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
Well, in this case, we’ve had two and a half years of gross mismanagement, deceit, inhumane behaviour, unconscionable behaviour. You said that, unconscionable behaviour, I agree. The government was the assailant, not the protector. And I think, you also mentioned that the onus must be on the state to justify what it’s doing. And what we’ve got in our country, fundamentally, is, we’ve got two tidal parties, and they’re both doing the same thing. I mean, Labour and Liberal had the same basic motives in state and federal parliaments, and some state liberal parliaments. And so, we’re not going to get anything really until the people wake up to the fact that they’ve been violated, and they then start voting for who they want and hold people accountable. Ultimately, Parliament isn’t the top dog in this country. The prime minister’s not the top dog in this country. The voters are the top dog in this country and the voters have been asleep.

Professor Iain Benson:
Well, they’ve been sung to. They’ve had a very effective lullaby sung to them by the mainstream media. The coverage by ABC, by major newspapers, has been absolutely unconscionable. It’s been that fomenting of panic. A point that may have been made before your inquiry, but if it hasn’t, I’ll make it now briefly, is that Hannah Arendt, in her famous book on The Origins of Totalitarianism, says that two conditions are necessary for the conditions of totalitarianism to arise. The first is the creation of fear, and she says that’s backed by science often, or pseudoscience. And that’s been the case here with COVID. And the second condition that’s necessary for totalitarianism is isolation, and that was accomplished by these ridiculous lockdowns, which were way over the top and applied in the wrong places. That’s Hannah Arendt’s argument.

The thing I point out, and I raise this with all my students, none of my students have ever heard of the Great Barrington Declaration. Most people I had talked to when I address a group have never heard of the Great Barrington Declaration. Yet it was put together by leading virologists and immunologists from leading places like Stanford, Harvard and Oxford. And yet it was suppressed by the mainstream media. The question in this situation is, why was it suppressed? What’s going on there?

Craig Kelly:
Gotcha. I also think, what about the issue of free speech? I think we’ve seen this curtailment of free speech during this period, which I think has had a… You talk about the Great Barrington Declaration, anyone that promoted that on any of their social media pages was cancelled and blocked.

Professor Iain Benson:
Well, where do we begin on this? You’ve got different narratives that exist. In one narrative, everything that the health ministry said about the danger and lethality of COVID was true. In the other narrative, this was all a set of exaggerations and manipulations. Those two narratives can’t both be true. The worrying thing for most people is that, if the mainstream narrative is a lie, then in fact, the lie is now the dominant force in culture. And I think that is very upsetting for people. To use the contemporary parlance, it’s triggering, and they don’t want to go there. I’m taking a risk here, coming out on a event like this. As one colleague, a barrister in Canada, put it to me, I’m risking my reputation supporting this side of the narrative. Well, I think sometimes we have to do that. We have to take a strong stand, because we realise the stakes are huge.

In my life as a lawyer, a barrister now of over 30 years standing, I have never seen such concerted suppression of civil liberties anywhere in my life, as I’ve seen in the Western world. And unless people stand up and call it for what it is, and do what they can to resist it, we are marching, headlong, into Klaus Schwab’s COVID-19 and The Great Reset phenomenon, which, just to read the book should convince any rational person that we need to push back, now, not tomorrow, on everything that the World Economic Forum is trying to do under the rubric of a Great Reset.

Yeah.

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
Well, I want to say thank you very much, because our response to the great reset is the great resist. And you said it, people need to do that all over the world, especially the Western democracies, so called democracies, but I want to thank you-

Professor Iain Benson:
Well, with knowledge is power. And unfortunately, a lot of people are not making themselves knowledgeable about what’s being said in these books. But fortunately, for whatever reason, Klaus Schwab made his book available and it’s online, it can be found free. And you can read the section, it’s not that long, where he discusses China and the United States. And he says very, very clearly that there’s no such thing as an objective normative position from which you can evaluate any difference between China and the US. Well, anyone who can say something as absurd as that shows their true moral character. And I think, when you place the economy and business ahead of human dignity, you’ve made a step back to a period of history none of us, if we are aware of right and wrong, should support.

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
The only thing I would add to that is that, this is not about the economy and business. This is about control. And some of the large corporations admittedly used Klaus Schwab as their vehicle, the UN as their vehicle. Klaus Schwab is saying nothing new. The UN’s been saying that since ’44. So what this is really about, for me, is control. And, I want to thank you very much for speaking bluntly and courageously, and thank you for just standing up and being part of this solution.

Professor Iain Benson:
It’s a great pleasure. Keep up your good work there, and all the best to your thinking and your initiatives.

Senator Malcolm Roberts:
Thank you very much, Professor.

Professor Iain Benson:
Yeah. Cheerio.

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