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A History of the 'Unfortunate Experiment' at National Women's Hospital [Paperback]

Linda Bryder
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2009 1869404351 978-1869404352
In the late 1980s, a national outcry followed the publication of Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle's 'Unfortunate Experiment' article in Metro magazine about the treatment of carcinoma in situ at National Women's Hospital. The article prompted a commission of inquiry led by Judge Silvia Cartwright (as she then was), which indicted the practices of doctors at the hospital and led to lawsuits, censure, a national screening programme and a revolution in doctor-patient relations in New Zealand. In this carefully researched book, medical historian Dr Linda Bryder provides a detailed analysis of the treatment of carcinoma in situ at National Women's since the 1950s, an assessment of international medical practice and a history of the women's health movement. She tackles a number of key questions. Was treatment at National Women's an 'unfortunate experiment'? Was it out of line with international norms? Did Herb Green and his colleagues care more for science than for their patients? Did women die as a result? And what were the sources of the scandal that erupted?

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About the Author

Medical historian Linda Bryder is associate professor of history at The University of Auckland. She is the author of A Voice for Mothers: The Plunket Society and Infant Welfare 1907-2000 (AUP, 2003) and the editor of A Healthy Country: Essays on the Social History of Medicine in New Zealand (1991).

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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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