SYDNEY, Australia — Thirteen-year-old Lukas Moeller has Down's syndrome. His father is a doctor who came to Australia from Germany to help fill a shortage of physicians in rural communities.
But now Australia has rejected Dr. Bernhard Moeller's application for residency, saying Lukas does not meet the "health requirement" and would pose a burden on taxpayers.
The case has provoked an outcry in the rural region of southeastern Victoria state, where Moeller is the only internal medicine specialist for a community of 54,000 people.
The doctor has powerful supporters. Victoria Premier John Brumby has pledged to support the family's appeal, and federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Friday she would speak to the immigration minister about the case.
Moeller moved to Australia two years ago with his wife, Isabella, their daughter Sarah, 21, and sons Lukas and Felix, 17, to help fill a critical need for doctors in rural areas. They settled in Horsham, a town of 20,000 about 100 miles northwest of Melbourne.
Moeller's temporary work visa is valid until 2010.
In its decision, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship cited Lukas' "existing medical condition," saying it was "likely to result in a significant and ongoing cost to the Australian community," according to a statement Thursday.
"We are absolutely able to support him and I don't want him to rely on any government pension anyway," Moeller told the Melbourne radio station 3AW.
David Tolleson, executive director of the Atlanta-based National Down Syndrome Congress, posed a question for the Australian government.
"What is the cost implication to the community of a doctor shortage?" Tolleson asked. "I assume the son had the same costs for the last two years and they were happy to have the family and use the dad as a doctor."