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Mar 6, 2012

The latest wrap of health & medical reading from The Conversation

Thanks to Fron Jackson-Webb for providing this latest wrap of reading from The Conversation.

Thanks to Fron Jackson-Webb for providing this latest wrap of reading from The Conversation. It includes articles about bioethics, pharmaceutical industry payments to doctors, the history of forced adoption, gene patenting, advances in tobacco control, debates in suicide prevention, and the financing of dental care.


There’s no good argument for infanticide

By Andrew McGee, Lecturer, Faculty of Law at Queensland University of Technology

Philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have received an avalanche of abusive comments and emails following the publication of their paper on “post-birth abortion” in last week’s Journal of Medical Ethics. The response has been despicable but it shouldn’t blind us to the flaws in the authors’ argument.

As the journal’s editor Julian Savulescu noted, their arguments “are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly … by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world.” But the discussion has continued because it’s been notoriously difficult to prove the arguments wrong.


Gifts that keep on giving: pharma should disclose all links to doctors

By Christopher Scanlon, Senior lecturer in Journalism at La Trobe University

How would you feel if your local GP or specialist was pocketing money from a drug company to promote its products? If your gut tells you that this falls squarely into the category of Very Bad Ideas then it turns out that you’re out of step with most Australians — or, you would be if you believe the PR efforts of drug companies.

A recent press release trumpeted “Majority support sponsorship between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals if publicly declared.” It was issued by GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures everything from Panadol to the asthma medication Ventolin to the antidepressant Aropax.


Re-writing Australia’s history of forced adoption

By Susan Gair, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work and Community Welfare at James Cook University

A long-awaited Senate Committee report will tomorrow reveal whether the Commonwealth’s policies and practices played a role in coercing young, unwed Australian women to give up their newborn babies for adoption.

The practice, known more recently as forced adoption, was reportedly common in Australia between the 1950s and 1980s, with authorities failing to gain free and informed consent from thousands of young, unwed mothers before their newborns were removed.


Genetic land-grab or reward for ingenuity? Australian court to rule on gene patents

By Dianne Nicol , Professor of Law at University of Tasmania

The concept of protecting ideas and innovation by legal means dates back to antiquity. But in the age of the internet and multinational business models, many of the existing laws are under strain, their suitability and ultimate purpose called into question.

Here, Dianne Nicol examines a court case that will decide whether human genes are patentable subject matter in Australia.


Smoke-free outdoor laws herald better community health

By Andrew Penman, CEO at Cancer Council NSW

The NSW government will introduce a smoke-free outdoors law this year, making it the sixth state or territory to have some variation of this kind of legislation. The announcement shows that community health and common sense can override the vested interests and powerful lobbying of Big Tobacco.

While New South Wales has been late in introducing these laws compared with other states, the legislation will be one of the most comprehensive.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the legislation – covering smoke-free children’s playgrounds, sporting fields when sports are being played, and covered bus shelters and taxi ranks – will be introduced in the spring session of parliament. The bans for smoking in commercial outdoor dining areas will come into effect in 2015.


Extracting the true cost of universal dental care

By Anthony Harris, Acting director of the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University

The recent decision to means test the tax subsidy on private health insurance was made on the grounds that we provide more help to those who need it most and not subsidise those who can afford to take care of themselves.

At the same time, some of the savings from this decision have been set aside to fund public dental care – again on the grounds that this will assist those with the greatest dental health problems who are perceived as being unable to afford private dental care.


Can barriers prevent suicide or do they just shift the problem?

By Jo Robinson, Researcher, Orygen Youth Health at University of Melbourne and Georgina Rose Cox, Researcher, Orygen Youth Health at University of Melbourne

There has been widespread media coverage over over the past ten days about the tragic deaths of a man and his son at the Story Bridge in Brisbane. The Brisbane Council was quick to announce it would fund suicide-prevention signs and telephones at the site, but the Council has refused to install safety barriers that could prevent further deaths from the bridge.

Brisbane’s Deputy Mayor, Adrian Schrinner, questioned the value of physical barriers at what have become known as suicide “hotspots”, saying they would simply “shift the problem” to other sites.


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