Hard News by Russell Brown


Medical Matters

The High Court review of the workings of the Abortion Supervisory Committee has opened a can of worms that caused social convulsion in the 1970s. We knew the process was a fudge, but it has long seemed to be a fudge the majority of the country can live with.

As the Wikipedia article states, "in New Zealand today, abortion is not a major political issue, and since the 1970s most of the abortion-related lobby groups from both sides of the political spectrum have largely demobilized."

Tell that to Right to Life, which sought the review on the grounds that the Abortion Supervisory Committee was not using its full power to scrutinise consultants' decisions. The committee takes the view that it does not have such power; Justice Forrest Miller now says it does. I'm in no position to comment on the legal merit of his judgement, but what happens next going to be interesting.

We have another potentially explosive medical controversy in the news that the FDA now no longer completely vouchsafes the safety of mercury amalgam fllings in all cases.

The Q&A on the FDA website says it doesn't recommend the removal of such fillings, but notes the "precautionary principle" followed in Canada, France and Sweden, and ventures on that basis that "pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner."

But Kathryn Ryan has just interviewed a lawyer and a lobbyist from the US who explicitly extended the change of view into the claim that mercury causes autism. There just isn't evidence of that, and not for want of anyone looking. The American dental Association has provided some context, but I think there'll be a lot more of this. Personally, I think it's wise to work away from the use of mercury in fillings, as we have in vaccines -- purely as a matter of precaution, rather than because evil doctors are poisoning our children.

As it happens, Media7 this week is all about the reporting of health issues -- from dodgy doctors to miracle cures. Our panel is deputy health and disability commissioner (and former journalist) Rae Lamb, 3 News's Dr Lillian Ng, and Wayne Brown.

If you'd like to come along to the recording at The Classic on Queen Street this evening, hit the reply button below and let me know that you (and a friend) will be joining us. If you can't join us, feel free to chip in your thoughts in the discussion for this post.

On a completely different tip the Apple newswires and blogs are on full rev this morning after the unveiling of the iPhone 3G, which will be launched here along with other participating territories by Vodafone. It's quite a platform. And that's not even mentioning Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the forthcoming release that targets peformance rather than throwing in features (yay!).

With impeccable timing, the excellent Mark Webster has begun writing a new blog, MacPlanet, for the Herald website. He'll be rounding up the iPhone and other WWDC news today.

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