In 21st century New Zealand the medical profession is still sitting in the "sin bin" of the public and media eye. Medical ethics committees are dominated by lay people and professionals with little knowledge of the area of research they are judging. Research must now conform more to "culturally clean" requirements rather than the unbiased safe medical research the public might expect. The lack of current meaningful medical research in New Zealand can be directly attributed to the "Unfortunate Experiment". This superb social history by Professor Linda Bryder tells the tale of how the social milieu of the 1980's enabled a group of women's rights campaigners to focus media attention on the care of women with cervical smear abnormalities at National Women's Hospital, Auckland. A case was made that women were subjected to unethical treatment. The media were only too keen to sensationalise rather than analyse. The resulting Public Enquiry destroyed the careers and reputations of eminent clinicians whilst enabling the campaigning protagonists and their allies to rise to the highest public offices and fame. Professor Bryder highlights the flaws in the case that lead to the Enquiry as well as in the Enquiry itself. . We wonder how an Enquiry could reach such profoundly poor conclusions? We suspect there is more that Professor Bryder cannot tell us. C Shepherd and S Hawkins
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