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The New Zealand Medical Journal

 Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 22-October-2004, Vol 117 No 1204

Cervical Cancer Inquiry
I wish to comment on the response1 from Lynda Williams, Director of Auckland Women's Health Council (AWHC), to the article by Professor Barbara Heslop entitled ‘All about research’—looking back at the 1987 cervical cancer inquiry’.
The AWHC cannot make any special claim for ownership of the Report of the Cervical Cancer Inquiry, nor for subsequent events on the basis of involvement in them. I need to say that the staff of National Women’s Hospital worked hard on the implementation of the recommendations in the Report, as did many organisations including the New Zealand Medical Association, which was doing work on informed consent well before the inquiry. There were health commissioners in Australia already and the Code of Rights involved large numbers of people in government as well as the Health and Disability services, supporting Robyn Stent as first commissioner.
The assertion by Ms Williams that “Over 30 women died as a result of being part of ‘the unfortunate experiment at National Women's hospital’ and their untimely deaths were entirely avoidable” is untrue; the figure is a contrivance of AWHC and it cannot be substantiated. Appendix 12 of the Report has a heading ‘Some deaths in patients with positive cytology’. There is a list of 24 women who died between 1973 and 1987, in only eight of them is cancer of the cervix recorded as the cause of death and there is no way of knowing whether or not those women were part of the study of Associate Professor Green.
The article by Professor Heslop is a valuable contribution, and the Auckland Women's Health Council does nobody any favours by attempting to stifle discussion about the Cervical Cancer Inquiry.
Tony Baird
Auckland Gynaecology Group

  1. Williams, Heslop B. Looking back at the 1987 Cervical Cancer Inquiry – and Response [letter]. N Z Med J. 2004;117(1202). URL:
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