Video: Lancet editor Richard Horton urges medical licensing body not to punish doctors in Extinction Rebellion protests
The Lancet is one of the most respected medical journals in the world.
So when its editor, Richard Horton, endorsed nonviolent protests to address a climate emergency, it generated attention far and wide.
Horton's videotaped statement is available on the website of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, which is a collective of medical professionals who've participated in civil disobedience.
They've done this because they see climate change as "an impending public health catastrophe".
"The climate emergency that we're facing today is the most important existential crisis facing the human species," Horton said. "And since medicine is all about protecting and strengthening the human species, it should be absolutely foundational to the practice of what we do every single day.
"The GMC [General Medical Council] published an extremely important document, which guides all health professionals—Duties of a Doctor," he continued. "The duties of a doctor are first and foremost to an individual patient or to the public that they serve.
"The climate crisis is one of the most, I would say the most, existential crisis facing our communities in the world today. Doctors and all health professionals have a responsibility, an obligation, to engage in all kinds of nonviolent social protests to address the climate emergency. That is the duty of the doctor.
"The GMC, based on its document, should be fully supportive of all health professionals who engage in that kind of nonviolent social protest."
Doctors for Extinction Rebellion states on its website that while breaking the law might seem unusual, "we believe that the severity of the crisis is so great that such a decision is justified."
The group also points to "the strong, academic consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [that] predicts catastrophe without unprecedented change."
In his videotaped statement, Horton also said that he hopes that doctors who've engaged in nonviolent protests "are protected from anyone who might seek to damage or harm their future careers in medicine".
"We're the only species that exists that's created this incredible superstructure of a health system," Horton said. "Fundamentally, human beings care about each other. We wouldn't have built health systems if we didn't care about each other.
"We wouldn't have nurses, we wouldn't have doctors, or any other health professionals, we wouldn't have created clinics or hospitals, unless we fundamentally loved one another," he added. "Surely, there's not only great hope but also great encouragement for health professionals and their organizations and other groups in society to work together, to cooperate together, to solve these problems that we face collectively."