November 18th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

QUARANTINE: Apples decision set to rile city electorates

EDITORIAL: IVF unlimited - time to call a halt

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Vote rigging - the ripples widen

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Don’t bank on the banks


LAW: International Criminal Court - Parliament by-passed


Straws in the Wind

INTERVIEW: Democracy needs a "virtuous" society - George Weigel

ECONOMICS: Globalisation - what it is, what it isn’t

ASIA: Taiwan enters uncertain waters

COMMENT: Australia before multiculturalism

Reading the trends

AD 2000 and the sky isn’t falling

Books promotion page


by Dr George Halasz, Dr Ian Martin, Dr William H. Orchard, Dr Larry Hermann, Arthur Beyer

News Weekly, November 18, 2000
Commercialised medicine


Helen Spring’s timely article (News Weekly, November 4) confronts the Australian community with an unpalatable truth: the erosion by commercialised medicine of the principle that patients (adults and children) have a right to access medical treatment that serves the patient’s best interest.

She draws a frightening link between the current situation in the USA and Australia. In the USA, psychiatry’s peak body, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has become the target of a class action.

That action alleges that the APA colluded with the drug company that manufactures the drug Ritalin used in the treatment of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), to boost drug sales and to promote the notion that ADHD is a legitimate psychiatric disorder (Psychiatric News, August 4, 2000).

The allegation of a professional body failing in its duty of care is a serious matter.

In Australia, our culture of increasingly commercialised medicine has created our own controversies.

First, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (reported in The Age, October 28, 2000) are charging our largest health fund, Medibank Private, with deceptive advertising.

Second, Helen Spring’s focus on the "Medicare anomaly" of Item 319, which restricts access to treatment for a small and vulnerable population, assumes a new significance.

How is it possible that three professional organisations, claiming to support the rights of patients to access treatment, can hold such divergent views?

A community that supports the rights of patients to ethical medical treatment must know whether conflicts of interest may interfere with those rights.

Australia does not need to follow the American trend in medical litigation. We can avoid it.

Disclosure by the three medical organisations, explaining how their decisions accord with the best interests of patients, would reassure us that patients’ rights are upheld.

Otherwise, in the current climate of commercialised medicine, we may be forgiven for being sceptical about the motives that drive decision-making in the health industry.

We may even begin to think that conflicts of interest lurk behind the scenes.

Dr George Halasz FRANZCP,
Dr Ian H. Martin FRANZCP,
Dr William H. Orchard FRANZCP,
Dr Larry Hermann FRANZCP
East Malvern, Vic

The view from South Africa


Firstly I would like to congratulate Australia for hosting a very successful Olympics, it was definitely the best ever. Every person in South Africa agrees with this fact. We were watching it on television with real enthusiasm and excitement.

It has become a common phenomenon every week or month to find friends and family from South Africa leaving for other countries, but the majority are leaving forAustralia. There is a definite "capital flight" from South Africa, specifically highly skilled people like engineers, doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants.

According to immigration agencies for Australia and news reports in South Africa, Australia has now so many Afrikaans speaking people at the moment that th Afrikaans language is now recognised as an official language in Australia.

Over the weekend, I saw an advertisement on television of one of the largest cellular (mobile) phone companies in South Africa, namely MTN.

As part of the advertisement it shows a guy that uses his cellular phone to phone a bank to obtain a loan and the advertisement shows how he is dreaming of expanding his business to other countries, with emphasis on Australia. It shows the local people in Australia wearing South African clothing, as well as people eating our beloved "biltong" (dried meat) and Australia is described in the advertisement as the 10th province of South Africa (we officially have 9 provinces).

I cannot help to admit how true this new saying is.

One can just hope that an even closer relationship between the two countries will develop in the future.

As you know the Afrikaans language was developed from the Dutch influence in South Africa since 1652. The Afrikaners always felt close to the Europeans. After the diamonds and gold were discovered in South Africa in 1880, the British took over South Africa, together with its dominance in language.

The Afrikaans people fled to the northern part of South Africa in a phase of the history called the "great trek".

Over the years most of us in the country became bilingual, if not multilingual (11 official languages), and since a major part of the Afrikaans people married English people, I thought this wonderful language would disappear.

I have thought about the future process of the development of the Afrikaans language and where the Afrikaans person would find its new home and I must say, I now know the answer ... Australia!

Arthur Beyer,
Pretoria, South Africa

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