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Metro Magazine NZ - - Letters -

Wa­ter wis­dom

The story, Ora­tia, mon amour (May/ June is­sue) makes grim read­ing: An un­ac­count­able monopoly tram­pling on those it’s meant to serve.

De­pend­ing on where you live, new cus­tomers are re­quired to pay Water­care be­tween $12,000 and $29,000 for the priv­i­lege of con­nect­ing to the Water­care net­work. Cus­tomers are not al­lowed to in­stead choose to in­stall their own wa­ter sys­tem as is com­monly done in ar­eas out­side Water­care’s grasp at sig­nif­i­cantly lower cost. Water­care main­tains that new cus­tomers are a bur­den on its net­works and also for­bids them from mak­ing other ar­range­ments.

At my oc­ca­sion­ally used hol­i­day home in Omaha, Water­care forces me to pay a fixed fee for waste­water only, which ex­ceeds the to­tal an­nual cost of both wa­ter and waste­water in my per­ma­nent home in Auck­land. Again, I am not al­lowed to in­stall my own sys­tem. Again, a monopoly with im­punity for­bids us­ing a valid al­ter­na­tive. Re­cently, a re­ported leak at my home (at a time Water­care was de­mand­ing cus­tomers de­crease us­age) went unat­tended for al­most a month.

While the gov­ern­ment has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally the level of ac­count­abil­ity and ser­vice of its agen­cies, at the lo­cal level (Water­care, Auck­land Coun­cil, Auck­land Trans­port) there con­tin­ues to be woe­ful in­ef­fi­ciency, bloated ivory tow­ers and an ar­ro­gance and dis­dain to­wards the cus­tomers the or­gan­i­sa­tions are meant to serve.

It’s a sim­i­lar prob­lem Cal­i­for­nia faced many years ago and re­solved with the in­tro­duc­tion of Propo­si­tion 13, al­most halv­ing fees like these. It’s high time cen­tral gov­ern­ment acted to pro­tect con­sumers from vo­ra­cious and un­ac­count­able lo­cal-body mo­nop­o­lies.

John O’Hara, Taka­puna

Ora­tia roy­alty

Parker Rd res­i­dents are like roy­alty in Ora­tia. You don’t buy a house in Parker Rd. If you are lucky, you are born there. If you are clever, you marry into a fam­ily there. If you are Water­care, it seems you would bully your way in with the Pub­lic Works Act and just ac­quire it force­fully. We rented in this area for a year look­ing

for a house to buy be­fore end­ing up in Carter Rd, nearby. In that year, not one house came up for sale in Parker Rd. Why “pave par­adise and put up a park­ing lot?” Moira Craill, Ora­tia

(On May 30, Water­care dropped plans for a wa­ter treat­ment plant at Ora­tia.)

Goffham City

Matthew Hooton ( The View from Short­land Street, May/June) cri­tiqued the first six months of Mayor Phil Goff’s term as the con­sum­mate po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor he is. In par­tic­u­lar, he man­aged to en­cap­su­late the main man­age­ment and op­er­a­tional is­sues of a city that many might ar­gue is not “fit for pur­pose” as it is “too big for pur­pose”. Some clever wit has re­branded Auck­land as the new “Goffham” city, al­though I favour “Cone-city” as streets, pave­ments and mo­tor­ways dis­ap­pear un­der a moun­tain of di­rec­tive cones. This is par­tic­u­larly ironic, as clear di­rec­tion of our city ap­pears one of its chief man­age­ment fail­ures.

Apart from the cri­sis of hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture, there are many lower-level is­sues such as air qual­ity, res­i­den­tial amenity, sewage and green spa­ces. For ex­am­ple, what of the fudg­ing around the rou­tine dump­ing of sewage into the Waitem­ata? While heavy rain re­brands our city as “Shitty-of-sails”, ap­par­ently it is still in the “too ex­pen­sive” tray.

An­other is­sue re­quir­ing more than show-pony lead­er­ship is the con­stant bit­ing and “de­vel­op­ing” of the last ves­tiges of green spa­ces in our city. Ev­ery Auck­lan­der has the feel­ing that ours is a city man­aged by “agenda” and not com­mu­nity. Per­haps the re­al­ity is that coun­cil suf­fers the way of all too-large cor­po­ra­tions — it is ut­terly un­able to link into a big pic­ture and con­nect the dots to the very hu­man and com­mu­nal level.

Hooton picks up on a “watch this space” is­sue; the city is com­ing to the end of a “tem­po­rary” trans­port levy. If this is dis­con­tin­ued, there will be a hole of around a hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars.

All the is­sues of our city are eas­ily ad­dressed by cor­rect man­age­ment and plan­ning linked to ad­e­quate re­source. Within the user-pays ide­ol­ogy of rates, which has al­ways been the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of in­creas­ing them, quite why one per­son owning and liv­ing in a house pays the same rates as eight peo­ple liv­ing in an iden­ti­cal house has never been ad­dressed. In­deed, our city fund­ing re­flects a foun­da­tional flaw within the en­tire New Zealand tax­a­tion sys­tem. Com­mu­nal re­source is har­vested via a groan­ing, com­plex, mul­ti­far­i­ous com­pos­ite sys­tem of fund­ing that seeks to man­age down true costs, lump it on some and not oth­ers and not deal with in­ef­fi­cien­cies.

The burn­ing ques­tion is why can’t we have one pay­ment sys­tem that covers all na­tional and lo­cal re­quire­ments and ser­vices in­stead of a zil­lion sys­tems re­quir­ing a moun­tain of ad­min­is­tra­tion. Rus­sell Hoban, Pon­sonby

Why, why, why?

Why is the On the Town sec­tion of your mag­a­zine so old-fash­ioned, im­per­sonal and for­mal? I re­fer to the use of Mr, Ms (why no Mrs?) for all those who have been pho­tographed. Why, in this day and age, and in our friendly so­ci­ety, is this for­mal sys­tem used? Gone are the days when in­tro­duc­tions were Mr So and So, Mrs So and So. God for­bid if some­one calls them­selves Mr or Mrs or Ms.

For many years now, Chris­tian names have been used to record names. I re­fer to hon­ours boards, other pub­li­ca­tions and gen­eral news items. The hon­ours boards in par­tic­u­lar are so much more in­ter­est­ing since us­ing Chris­tian names.

All your ar­ti­cles about peo­ple use this for­mat; why is this sec­tion so dif­fer­ent?

As a sub­scriber, I en­joy your mag­a­zine very much but ev­ery time I look at this sec­tion, I ask the same ques­tion: why?

I have fi­nally de­cided to ask the ques­tion.

Ross Bragg, Mis­sion Bay

(Why in­deed? See page 20 — Ed.)

Lead­er­ship fail­ure

I am “Ruth”, a sub­ject of Herbert Green’s Un­for­tu­nate Ex­per­i­ment at Na­tional Women’s Hospi­tal ( The in­side story of the Un­for­tu­nate Ex­per­i­ment, March/April). The ex­per­i­ment was ex­posed in Metro in 1987. Over the years — and re­cently stim­u­lated by Ron Jones’ book, Doc­tors in Denial — I have re­flected on the role of some of the lead­ers of the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion who did not in­ter­vene to stop Green’s ex­per­i­ment. These spe­cial­ists turned their backs on pa­tients, al­low­ing the wel­fare of their pro­fes­sion to take prece­dence. I re­gard these “lead­ers” as weak, du­plic­i­tous and to­tally lack­ing in em­pa­thy for the pa­tients.

The ex­per­i­ment should never have taken place. The mat­ter should have been set­tled by the Cartwright Re­port, but sadly no; a new gen­er­a­tion of doc­tors led by Tony Baird (chair­man and later pres­i­dent of the New Zealand Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion) has en­gaged in years of denial, and de­fence of Green’s ex­per­i­ment. One would have ex­pected that Baird, who was well aware of the ef­fects of Green’s ex­per­i­ment, would have em­braced the Cartwright Re­port. In­stead, for 30 years he has pub­licly sought to un­der­mine it, and joined forces with re­vi­sion­ist history pro­fes­sor Linda Bry­der, who has shown no em­pa­thy for, or un­der­stand­ing of, what the women went through.

Now we have a new group of doc­tors who elect to bask in their ig­no­rance, or turn a blind eye. It is shame­ful and does lit­tle to re­store the pub­lic’s faith. The Univer­sity of Auck­land, hid­ing be­hind a mask of “aca­demic free­dom”, ap­pears to sup­port re­vi­sion­ism, deny­ing the harm aris­ing from the ac­tions of its em­ploy­ees. It shows no sign of re­morse, and cer­tainly of­fers no apol­ogy to the sub­jects and vic­tims of this un­eth­i­cal ex­per­i­ment.

Clare Mathe­son, Avon­dale

Denial con­tin­ues

The launch of Ron Jones’ book, Doc­tors in Denial, was a sig­nif­i­cant event in post-Cartwright history. The book con­tains new ev­i­dence that two se­nior doc­tors at Na­tional Women’s Hospi­tal, Mont Lig­gins and Wil­liam Li­ley, were well aware their col­league Herbert Green was con­duct­ing re­search. Lig­gins, Li­ley and Green were friends, and busi­ness part­ners in a forestry ven­ture. Also com­pelling was Lig­gins’ con­fes­sion he had “borne a bur­den of guilt for not hav­ing seen the study for what it was at the out­set”. Lig­gins fur­ther ac­knowl­edged that “it was an ex­per­i­ment with two pos­si­ble end­points — in­va­sive cancer or no in­va­sive cancer”.

At the book launch, a very mov­ing and un­qual­i­fied apol­ogy was given to the pa­tients and fam­i­lies in­volved in the Un­for­tu­nate Ex­per­i­ment by the Royal Aus­tralia and New Zealand Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists. In the TV pro­gramme Sun­day, aired on Fe­bru­ary 12, Mar­garet Wil­sher, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of Auck­land City Hospi­tal, also gave a per­sonal apol­ogy, and the hospi­tal has plans for a cer­e­mony of recog­ni­tion.

These re­cent de­vel­op­ments come on

top of the fact there has been no aca­demic re­but­tal of the McIn­doe et al.

1984 pa­per, “The In­va­sive Po­ten­tial of Car­ci­noma in Situ of the Cervix”, the Cartwright Re­port stands un­chal­lenged in any court, the Med­i­cal Coun­cil in 1990 found Den­nis Bon­ham guilty of dis­grace­ful con­duct, and Bruce Faris and Richard Sed­don were found guilty in 1995 of con­duct un­be­com­ing a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner. Only com­pas­sion for Green’s ill-health saved him from also be­ing for­mally cen­sured by the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion.

If aca­demic de­fence of Green is not dead, it cer­tainly should be. All the chocks un­der the feet of the de­fend­ers have been re­moved ex­cept one — the Univer­sity of Auck­land, em­ployer of Bon­ham, Green, Li­ley and Lig­gins.

I am the el­dest child of Dr Bill McIn­doe, the se­nior au­thor of the 1984 pa­per. I have an MA Hons de­gree in history and an LLB from the Univer­sity of Auck­land. I spent my pro­fes­sional life as a prac­tis­ing lawyer. It deeply trou­bles me that my own univer­sity has so far failed to ac­knowl­edge or apol­o­gise for its role in the Un­for­tu­nate Ex­per­i­ment. There should be no “sides” in this. Pro­fes­sor Sir David Skegg has said “Green was far from be­ing the devil in­car­nate as some would por­tray him”, and my fa­ther didn’t think any good would come of pil­lo­ry­ing him. There are no he­roes or vil­lains — only a cat­a­clysm of lives lost and dam­aged, of hard­ship, pain and sor­row suf­fered by the pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

I call upon the univer­sity to ac­knowl­edge the role it played in this tragedy and to is­sue an un­equiv­o­cal apol­ogy to those who suf­fered.

Mary Wha­ley, Ohakune

De­fend­ing Green

There are too many “al­ter­na­tive facts” in the book by Ron Jones about him­self, and in your cov­er­age, to cor­rect them all, but his ref­er­ence on TV to the deaths of 70 women as a re­sult of Herb Green’s ob­ser­va­tional study is out­ra­geous, not sup­ported by ev­i­dence and can­not be al­lowed to stand with­out com­ment.

San­dra Coney started with a claim that 29 women had died; then in an ar­ti­cle in the Lis­tener in 1988, she re­ferred to “26 lives wasted”. Now she claims there were 30 deaths. Diana Cle­ment writes of up to 30 deaths in 21 years. None state the source of their fig­ures.

The 1984 McIn­doe pa­per men­tioned the deaths from in­va­sive car­ci­noma of 12 women out of 1028 who pre­sented with car­ci­noma in situ (which is not cancer and women can­not die of it) at Na­tional Women’s be­tween Jan­uary 1955 and De­cem­ber 1976. Four had nor­mal ex­am­i­na­tions and smears af­ter their ini­tial man­age­ment, and all that the 1984 pa­per con­cluded was that there was an in­creased risk of in­va­sive dis­ease if women had “con­tin­u­ing ab­nor­mal cy­tol­ogy”.

In a Cartwright Re­port ap­pen­dix en­ti­tled “Some deaths in pa­tients with pos­i­tive cy­tol­ogy”, 24 women are listed, but for only eight is “Ca cervix” given as the cause of death. It is not known whether any were in­volved in Herb Green’s study, which did not start un­til 11 years af­ter the start of the col­lec­tion of the women’s sto­ries for the 1984 pa­per.

Clare Mathe­son re­mains dis­sat­is­fied. Hav­ing ac­cepted part of $1,020,000 for ex­em­plary dam­ages af­ter the Na­tional Women’s in­quiry, she signed a set­tle­ment that no fault or li­a­bil­ity was ad­mit­ted by the doc­tors, the hospi­tal board or the Univer­sity of Auck­land and that no fur­ther ac­tion would be taken.

Yes, the Cartwright Re­port brought pa­tients’ rights to pub­lic at­ten­tion but not all the out­comes from the in­quiry were pos­i­tive. There was an over­re­ac­tion that led to surgery for low-grade cer­vi­cal ab­nor­mal­i­ties in young women; for some, there was per­ma­nent dam­age for changes that would never be can­cer­ous. They do not have a voice. Mean­while, a vo­cal mi­nor­ity con­tin­ues to pro­mote a dis­torted ac­count. The only re­li­able source of in­for­ma­tion is the book by history pro­fes­sor Linda Bry­der.

Ron Jones’ claim for saint­hood as a “whis­tle-blower” is weak. He was sec­ond choice for a fourth au­thor of a pa­per with du­bi­ous sta­tis­tics, pub­lished only in the United States, never to my knowl­edge pre­sented in New Zealand and with the un­sur­pris­ing find­ing that women with ab­nor­mal smears af­ter ini­tial treat­ment were more likely to have in­va­sive dis­ease later.

In the 1984 pa­per, there is no con­dem­na­tion of Herb Green, the word ex­per­i­ment does not ap­pear, and there is no men­tion of some women hav­ing no treat­ment at all.

Tony Baird, Re­muera

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