top of page

An Open Letter to the New South Wales Premier and Minister for Health and Medical Research

by Deacon Stephen McKay, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop GEORGE+ of Canberra, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

This article and letter have been written in my capacity as a clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop GEORGE+ of Canberra. The views expressed herein are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my other employer, AC3.

The most chilling aspect of the current response to the Covid19 pandemic is not simply the interminable lockdowns or other inconveniences we must endure to stem the spread of the virus, not is it the economic fallout forcing the closure, sometimes even the permanent failure of numerous small business, although this is in itself a serious concern. By far the most disturbing aspect is the disregard for the foundational ethics of the medical profession, the necessity of individual informed consent for any medical treatment or prophylactic measures, and the now mandatory requirement for certain citizens of New South Wales to participate in the medical experimentation programme of vaccination trials currently running under the TGA's provisional pathway.

Placing any kind of coercive pressure upon any group of people to participate in medical experimentation is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Commonwealth of Australia is party state, and which is the foundational document for the Commonwealths Human Rights Commission Act 1986.

As a clergyman in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, I feel compelled by my conscience to advocate on behalf of those members of my community whose rights are being violated in this manner, and as an Australian Citizen since 2005, I am likewise compelled by my oath of allegiance "to Australia and it's people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey." This afternoon, with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop GEORGE, I sent the following correspondence to the NSW Premier and Minister for Health and Medical Research. Please read the letter, and I urge you to stand up with me and be counted on this matter. Take a moment to write to your State representative and politicians and let them know that these measures are unacceptable and that human rights are not negotiable and human beings are not cattle!


The Reverend Deacon Stephen McKay * Saint John the Baptist Skete * 10 Harrison Street * Kentlyn, NSW 2560

25 August 2021

The Honourable Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales

The Honourable Brad Hazzard Minister for Health and Medical Research, New South Wales

Dear Minister and Premier,

I am writing to you on behalf of several parishioners and congregation members within the Russian Orthodox community in New South Wales, both those known to me personally as well as many others who share similar convictions, and who work either in the New South Wales Department of Health or in many of the industries subject to the recent order requiring vaccination as a condition of work.

Minister, as you are no doubt aware, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has provided a temporary conditional approval under the provisional pathway with rolling reviews for the Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech, Jannsen-Cilag and AstraZeneca vaccines. Under this programme, these products are still experimental, as evidenced by the requirement for rolling reviews and further evidenced by the indemnities granted by the Federal Government for the vaccine manufacturers and even the medical staff tasked with administering the vaccines.

In accordance with ethics of the medical profession, any decision regarding vaccination - and certainly when this is in the context of medical experimentation - cannot be made by anyone other than the patient concerned. Every patient must be accorded the necessary freedom to make their own decision without coercion and with full disclosure of the risks as well as benefits of any proposed treatment and as well as the alternative treatments available. These ethical principles are foundational to the practice of medicine and have been reflected throughout the history of the profession in various forms from the “premium non nocere” (“first do no harm”) of the ancient oath of Hippocrates, to the Nuremberg Code of 1947 and UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights of 2005.

In particular, I would draw the Minister’s attention to Article 6 - Consent in the latter document, which very eloquently applies the fundamental ethical principles which have guided practicing physicians around the world for centuries:

“1. Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.

“2. Scientific research should only be carried out with the prior, free, express and informed consent of the person concerned. The information should be adequate, provided in a comprehensible form and should include modalities for withdrawal of consent. Consent may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without any disadvantage or prejudice. Exceptions to this principle should be made only in accordance with ethical and legal standards adopted by States, consistent with the principles and provisions set out in this Declaration, in particular in Article 27, and international human rights law.

“3. In appropriate cases of research carried out on a group of persons or a community, additional agreement of the legal representatives of the group or community concerned may be sought. In no case should a collective community agreement or the consent of a community leader or other authority substitute for an individual’s informed consent.

(The emphasis here, as in other quotations elsewhere in this letter, are my own.)

I made Australia my home in 1982, and I still recall with pride the passing of the Human Rights Commission Act in 1986, just four years later. At that moment I was deeply proud to call Australia home. If I may draw your attention to the seminal document on which the Act is based, i.e. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This document is included as Schedule 2 in the aforementioned Act. Part III Article 7, states the following:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation."

Further I would point out that the Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights sets forth the following:

“Section II. Derogations in a Public Emergency, D. Non-derogable Rights No state party shall, even in time of emergency threatening the life of the nation, derogate from the Covenant’s guarantees of the right to life; freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and from medical or scientific experimentation without free consent; freedom from slavery or involuntary servitude; the right not be be imprisoned for contractual debt; the right not to be convicted or sentenced to a heavier penalty by virtue of retroactive criminal legislation; the right to recognition as a person before the law; and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. These rights are not derogable under any conditions even for the asserted purpose of preserving the life of the nation.”

Many people across many different communities of faith in this State, including people who are also physicians, nurses and other frontline medical workers, have strong personal objections of conscience to the use of cultured human cell lines that have been harvested from aborted children. Unfortunately, this is presently the case with all the Covid19 vaccines available today. And I include myself in this number as I also find that my conscience will not permit me to be vaccinated with any substance so produced. As this is a matter of personal conscience, I fully understand and accept opposite opinions on this matter and pass no judgement on any who do choose to be vaccinated. In fact, I have great respect for those whose conscience permits and who choose, for the benefit of their fellows, to subject themselves voluntarily to clinical trials. However, as matter of conscience, my understanding is that this is a position which is protected explicitly as a non-derogable right by the Sircusa Principles.

I do not understand how the New South Wales Government is able to require participation in medical experimentation as a condition of employment for workers in any industry without violating Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, unless the inclusion of this document as Schedule 2 in the Human Rights Commission Act 1986 is merely decorative.

The heroes of our nation par excellence are without question the thousands of volunteers who gave their lives for God, King and Country on the shores of Gallipoli over 100 years ago. Their bravery and sacrifice is burned into the consciousness of our nation - and rightly so. Today I would add to the company of those heroes the 452 Australians who have voluntarily participated in the medical trials of the Covid19 vaccination programme to date and who have died as a consequence. These people should be recognised publicly and honoured by more than a mere statistical entry in the TGA’s Database of Adverse Event Notifications.

Like the ANZACs, these people are heroes because they voluntarily participated at cost of their lives in the clinical trials of an experimental vaccination for the good of their fellow Australians. It is particularly the voluntary nature of their sacrifice which sets them apart. However, when human beings are required by public order to participate in medical experimentation willing or not, this is not heroism. This is slavery, or something even worse. And those who pronounce such orders are remembered in history as tyrants.

Having been approached by several frontline medical workers who are distressed by internal communications they have received recently, I would ask the Minister to please address such internal departmental communications in a manner which fully respects the ethics of the medical profession and the non-derogable civil and political rights of the Department’s own staff members, as well as those of every citizen of the State of New South Wales.

I ask the Premier and Parliament of New South Wales to review and adjust the measures taken in the management of the current pandemic by taking fully into account the rights of each citizen in accordance with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Human Rights Commission Act 1986. In also ask the State to review and if needful to temper the terms of the current public health orders. In particular, I request the Minister for Health to immediately cancel any orders requiring workers to participate in medical experimentation under the duress of economic pressure and loss of employment. Such measures are unconscionable in a free and democratic society, incompatible with the Human Rights Commission Act 1986, and should be revoked with all haste. I look forward to your considered reply.

Deacon Stephen McKay

278 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page