RCGP have made steps to revoke the honorary title of ‘Companion of the College’ that it awarded to the Sultan of Brunei in 2013.
In the time-honoured tradition of all medical organisations, the College apparently needed time to jump through several of its own ‘governance’ hoops in order to do this, but it does certainly appear to be happening. And if the College does manage to get this all tied up with a bow at the extraordinary meeting of the trustees on April 17th, it will have achieved more to extricate itself from the Sultan than many of the other institutions who too climbed into bed with him.
I have to admit that I’m not overly engaged with the goings-on of the College – I vote when asked to, and click on a few links in a newsletter, but from my point of view as a trainee, I mainly just see the College as the e-portfolio of doom. I certainly didn’t vet who was pouring the coffers into their accounts, or who they were handing out honorary titles to before signing up at the start of my training. So I probably didn’t have much of a right to be shocked when I found out via ‘Dr Rant’ on Facebook that the College was best buds with the Sultan of Brunei. This is the man who is best known for bringing in laws to allow the stoning to death of gay men, adulterers and those who insult the Prophet Muhammad, oh and of course as the owner of the sassiest car in the world.
To feel supported by my colleagues when I felt so abandoned by the College was a show of true allyship
When I read about the honour, I was physically devastated. My stomach sank and my heart pounded. I’m a gay woman and a GP trainee, and for me to be a member of an organisation who honored this man felt like a violation. I was more than upset – it felt to me like the lives of gay people didn’t matter to the people who are responsible for my training.
I did what any outraged millennial in my shoes would do – I wrote a strongly worded email, got on Twitter and started a Change.org petition. Did any of that have anything to do with forcing the College’s hand? I really don’t care what did it. To feel supported by my colleagues when I felt so abandoned by the College was a show of true allyship.
Is this revocation a huge victory for human rights? Will any stonings be prevented because of this? No, of course not, but the RCGP, who is so often seen as the public face of our profession, shouldn’t be on record chumming up to human rights abusers. It taints us all.
Of course, there are so many more questions to answer here, such as who else is the College hiding in the companion closet? How can the College ensure ethical funding avenues moving forward? And how do I submit my favourite names forward for consideration for the currently moniker-less auditorium?
Dr Hollie Rolland is a GP trainee