A voice for women's health

Cartwright Inquiry

The Auckland Women’s Health Council has produced a response to self proclaimed medical historian Linda Bryder's claims that Dame Silvia Cartwright got it wrong and that the 1988 Report on the Inquiry into the treatment of cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital was based on a misunderstanding, and there was no experiment at National Women’s Hospital. It is in the September issue of the Council's newsletter.

This is not the first time that attempts have been to dispute the findings of the Cartwright Inquiry and to discredit the testimony of many of those who gave evidence at the Inquiry. It is important to bear in mind that those who write about what happened at National Women’s Hospital during the 1960s and 1970s do so without having seen the medical files of the women who did not receive the treatment they should have and as a result got cervical cancer. Some of them died.

The article written by Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle that appeared in the June 1987 issue of Metro can be downloaded here.

Further information about the Cartwright Inquiry and the evidence that was presented during the Inquiry can be found on Women's Health Action's website - www.womens-health.org.nz

The Cartwright Report was publicly released on 5 August 1988 and is available online at http://www.nsu.govt.nz/Current-NSU-Programmes/3233.asp

Linda Bryder's book on the "unfortunate experiment" that took place at National Women's Hospital from 1965 to 1974 is an unfortunate attempt to rewrite history. In her book, Linda Bryder mispresents the medical history of the woman at the centre of the Cartwright Inquiry, Clare Matheson, despite the fact that Clare Matheson's medical file can be found in both the Cartwright Report as well as being detailed in the book that Clare wrote about her experience - "Fate Cries Enough." More on this can be found in the article by Chris Barton that appeared in the Weekend Herald on 15 August 2009 - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10590850&pnum=0

This article describes what is wrong with Linda Bryder's arguments regarding what happened to Clare Matheson as well as the women who were part of the "unfortunate experiment."

Clare has written to the History Department at Auckland University and protested at the errors and ambiguities about her that have appeared in a book that emanated from the History Department and was published by Auckland University Press. Clare has given permission for the AWHC to publish her account of how Linda Bryder got it so wrong on this website. It is as follows: 

A History of the ‘Unfortunate Experiment' at National Women’s Hospital: One patient’s perspective 

Professor Charlotte Paul, one of Judge Silvia Cartwright's medical advisors, was interviewed by Kim Hill on National Radio on Saturday 15 August 2009, and during the interview she clearly explained how Linda Bryder got the science wrong. The interview can be accessed at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday

Professors Charlotte Paul and Linda Holloway, two of Judge Silvia Cartwright's medical advisors, have responded to the article that appeared in the 15 August 2009 issue of the New Zealand "Listener"  with an article that examines some of the many scientific and medical misunderstandings and mistakes that appear in Linda Bryder's book and were repeated in the Listener article. The article "Scientific facts and the unfortunate experiment"  can be accessed at http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3617/letters/13907.html 

Anne Else's Letter from Elsewhere entitled "Controversy over the "unfortunate experiment" can be found at http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0908/S00133.htm

Jo Manning is the editor of a forthcoming book called "The Cartwright Papers: Essays on the Cervical Cancer Inquiry 1987-88" published by Bridget Williams Books. It is due out in November 2009. Jo Manning is an Associate Professor at the Auckland University Faculty of Law and she specialises in medical law policy and ethics. More information can be found at http://www.bwb.co.nz/store/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=245

David Skegg responds to Linda Bryder's book and outlines the achievements of the National Cervical Screening Programme in the NZ Herald. His article can be accessed at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/health/news/article.cfm?c_id=204&objectid=10597266

A comprehensive feature article by Chris Barton, "An unfortunate fallout: Academics against Bryder's revisionist history," appeared in the Weekend Herald on Saturday 19 September 2009. The article can be accessed at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=18objectid=10598213


It is of course the right place for such a rebuttal - Sandra Coney has responded to Linda Bryder's book in an article written for METRO magazine which is featured in the October issue of the magazine under the title An Unfortunate History.

If you want a copy of this article, you can email the Auckland Women's Health Council on awhc@womenshealthcouncil.org.nz and we will email you a copy.

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