Doing no harm

Six years ago, in the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, a woman (known as “Ms X”) became hysterical when she was informed that the foetus she was carrying had skeletal dyspraxia (commonly known as dwarfism). She demanded an abortion.

At 32 weeks pregnant, aged 40, Ms X was acutely suicidal and, after careful examination by an ultrasonologist, obstetrician, geneticist and psychiatrist, a decision was taken to terminate the pregnancy in February 2000. Six years later the Court of Appeal rejected Ms X’s case.

“Subject to any appeal by the Hospital to the High Court, this decision categorically determines that sensitive medical records of a hospital are not exempt from production to a Court or statutory body (acting within its powers) on the grounds of public interest immunity.”

Ms X, as best she could, got on with her life. That was until Senator Julian McGauran, an anti-abortion Liberal Party Senator made a complaint to the Medical Practitioners Board. In November 2000, in parliament, he urged prosecution under an untested section of the Victorian Crimes Act, which creates an offence of child destruction after 28 weeks. Senator McGauran made the complaint after the State Coroner handed him a copy of the police brief that included the woman’s private medical files.

I have been concerned about the push to set aside a woman’s right to privacy with regard to medical records with the express goal of reducing reproductive rights for some time, and now, I am terrified.

“None of the people around that case, either that be the nursing staff or social workers or psychologists or the hospital ethics committee, the patient, the patient’s family or any doctors, had a concern about that case and did not feel it was appropriate to notify. When it was notified, the patient did not want the records released.Irrespective of that, then an individual, who has no real connection to the case, but has an ideological interest in the case has then been able to drag an individual through a process, over six years, where her records are investigated by people she didn’t want them to have investigated by.” – President of the Victorian AMA, Dr Mark Yates

I am very proud of the Victorian AMA and their push to change legislation so that a case like this can never be heard again. Ms X, and all women, have a right to expect privacy, dignity and support when they find themselves acutely suicidal at the thought of continuing a pregnancy.

Just so we are clear- after ‘acutely suicidal’ comes ‘completed suicide.’


Image from here

Comments spamproofed by Akismet

Trackback disabled until further notice.

29 Responses to “Doing no harm”

  1. weezil Says:

    It’s times like these that I wish I believed in a hell. There’s a special place there for Senator Julian McGauran, right next to the boiler room and just below the toilet block.

  2. kartar Says:

    Some days I just want to hurt people. After reading that this is one of those days. If you’d like to express your feelings to the wretched maggot his email is – I already fired off a suitable missive – “Have you no shame, sir? Have you no shame?”

  3. Graham Bell Says:


    Disagree that “all women, have a right to expect privacy, dignity and support ” when suicidal …… No. That should apply at any and all stages of their treatment …. and afterwards …… whether they are suicidal or not.

    The appalling hypocisy of delving into a person’s privacy simply to indulge onself in grandstanding and hair-splitting is disgusting. I take it that this ignoble politician suffers from a severe case of shyness if similar inquisitiveness is needed to expose mischief and diddling in the corporate world..

  4. Suki Says:

    Disagree that “all women, have a right to expect privacy, dignity and support ” when suicidal …… No. That should apply at any and all stages of their treatment …. and afterwards …… whether they are suicidal or not.

    Thank you for reminding me Graham! – I forget the macro rights when I am so busy being horrified at the micro ones being eroded.

  5. Suki Says:

    kartar, I’ll show you my McGauran response if you show me yours πŸ™‚ – that’s assuming he responds…

  6. kartar Says:

    He has yet to respond and I rather doubt he’ll respond. I might have used some intemperate language … not offensive … but I fairly forcefully stated my opinion of him and his behaviour.

  7. weezil Says:

    If you’re not writing J McG to praise him for being a foul and horrid prick, he’ll ignore you completely. There’s no ministerial accountability in the Howard regime. The only way to have any effect on this wankstain is to put a 24/7 protest & photography patrol on his arse. If he doesn’t think that women have any expectation of privacy in their medical affairs, he shouldn’t have a nanosecond of privacy himself.

  8. Graham Bell Says:

    No offence meant at all …. after all, you took the initiative to drag this issue out of all the background buzz and hum and put it where everyone could see it in the glaring light.

    I’m still disgusted at his low cheap act.

    Who are the individual women in groups and organizations that support this excuse for a senator? If he is a church-goer, who is his minister, priest, pastor, imam, rabbi or whatever? Who are his friends/rivals within his party? [well, you know what political parties are like :-)]. What about his wife, mother, daughter, mistress, spanking-lady, boyfriend or whoever is close to him? Would it be better to talk to these people about his gross breach of common decency and the way he has ruined forever his own status as a gentleman? Whatever you do, don’t get arrested for stalking.

  9. weezil Says:

    Graham, good queries all. About 99% of that I can learn without leaving this chair. Good thing, too…

    The upside to being disabled is that it’d be really hard to prove that I could stalk anything that moves much faster than a rare steak.

  10. Suki Says:

    You may be disabled, but stalking also has a psychological component, and you my friend, if you so choose, could be the Butcher!

  11. weezil Says:

    J McG seems to have made a sharp stab at learning psychological butchery. I reckon he ought to have a little taste for himself.

    Pass the HP sauce, please.

  12. Graham Bell Says:

    Don’t know, thought the offence of stalking had an intent component in it …… wonder where the boundary is between stalking and genuine public interest research?

    If you are disabled then don’t let that stop you, ever.

    Do you want pepper and salt too or just the HP sauce?

    Wonder what the price is, these days, for a dingo pelt? πŸ™‚

  13. Armaniac Says:

    McGauran is a rat, we can agree there.

    But this sad tale, reflecting as it does on how appearance is now a chronic disability, doesn’t leave me with the firmest sense of conviction.

    Today at NoPod a post about cultural relativism was discussing late abortion and infanticide of women in India. The parallels are not merely fatuous, and in my view demonstrate the potential for strongly felt convictions that appear to sit in the same place on the political spectrum can in fact be markedly opposed.

    Late Abortions: A left Wing Paradox.

    How will I feel if the infant has dwarvism? Probably very depressed, I am not lecturing, nor suggesting a genuinely suicidal woman should have her choice removed.

  14. Suki Says:

    How do we know it was child’s disability that caused Ms X to become acutely suicidal? It could be that Ms X herself has a disability and could not committ to her own care and that of a high-needs child. We don’t know do we.
    And the point is we shouldn’t know.
    We should never have been given this much specificty about Ms X.

    If we advocate for anything it should be for earlier foetal testing, with earlier detection, providing earlier choice.

  15. weezil Says:

    If anyone is struggling with the notion of whether to ‘take what comes’ instead of choosing healthy children, as a person with disabilities, I’m here to tell you that it is infinitely more cruel to inflict a life fraught with pain, sickness and disability than to quit now and try again later.

    This woman’s choices are none of McGauran’s business and never were. I honestly can’t find words to express the disgust and revulsion I have for this swine.

  16. Graham Bell Says:

    Suki and Weezil:
    Agree with both of you..

    “I honestly can’t find words to express the disgust and revulsion I have for this swine”. No? I’m sure you can. Just keep trying …. but remember that people like this can never be shamed into anything.

    If this McGauran snoozer is basing his attitudes and actions on a perverted view of religion then he had better rush off to have some long and very serious discussions with an experienced priest, nun, pastor, minister, rabbi or whoever about Compassion, the Lord’s Love and about the real difference between strong Faith and ruthless Fanaticism …… while he is at it, he might like to beg forgiveness for being such an unwitting friend and hard-working helper of Satan …….

  17. weezil Says:

    GB said, “…people like this can never be shamed into anything.”

    Makes you wonder why western societies gave up the stocks and pillory. A few days (and nights) out in the rain and cold used to give people pause for thought before descending into total assholiness.

    The High Court’s ruling that this woman’s private medical records should be released to pig felchers like McGauran is far beyond wrong. All the laws that affect men stop at their skin. Women are infinitely more vexed by having to keep laws out of their vaginas and uteri as well.

  18. Armaniac Says:

    Weezil, for what it’s worth I think your contribution to humanity is worth 5 typical “abled” contributions.

    But I see your point, and I haven’t been able to draw concrete conclusions over this issue.

    Beloved has her first scans next week, and we don’t have a 100% certain approach to what we might do in some circumstances.

    It’s more than ironic (I think deeply disgusting might actually be suitable) that calls for removal of choice come from the right, the same place where calls for limiting equal opportunity laws, positive discrimination, and public subsidisation and welfare come from.

    Imagine you proposed a new highly proactive component of primary school syllabi where kids would be made to mingle with and include other kids with various forms of limitations until they were no longer stigmatised…imagine who would bleat and complain and call it political correctness?

  19. weezil Says:

    Thanks for that, Armaniac. I would hope that a couple of bad knees and a dodgy back wouldn’t take too much out of my participation in humanity.

    I firmly believe that it’s infinitely more cruel to knowingly bring a child with disabilities into the world than to terminate that pregnancy and try again later. There’s few other things that we’re expected to do right without fail the first time we try, and making rugrats is probably one of the more complicated tasks we’re asked to do in a lifetime.

  20. Helen Says:

    It’s more than ironic (I think deeply disgusting might actually be suitable) that calls for removal of choice come from the right, the same place where calls for limiting equal opportunity laws, positive discrimination, and public subsidisation and welfare come from.

    Add to that the fact that the same people are often neoliberals responsible for the glorification of anything “private” and the downgrading of public services which is making the lives of disabled people and their carers so much more difficult than it should be – I’m speaking from experience (my relatives) here.

  21. Graham Bell Says:

    Why the hell should disabilities hinder your participation in humanity? Your brain’s working fine ….. though sometimes “opinion modification” might make things better [only kidding :-)]. Your idea of “trying again later” sounds both novel and logical therefore it will surely enrage those who are hell-bent on dragging us back to the bad old days.

  22. weezil Says:

    ‘Trying again later’ while logical is hardly novel. It’s just that most people won’t openly tell you that they terminated a pregnancy due to evidence that the foetus had abnormalities. You’ll be told that ‘there was a miscarriage.’ Anyone foolish enough to tell you they’ve terminated ‘for cause’ as it were invites being in the position of Ms X.

    We call them ‘disabilities’ because they’re interferences with our otherwise normal processes. They’re certainly undesirable qualities. If you have a choice as to whether to raise a disabled child or a healthy one, only the most self-centred person in the world would knowingly elect to raise the disabled child instead of ‘trying again later.’ It’s not a decision that benefits the child, that’s for sure.

  23. Graham Bell Says:

    Thanks. Good one.

  24. weezil Says:

    No wux, Graham.

    I will never understand why some people on this earth think they have a divine right to order others how to operate their reproductive bits- and their lives.

    Authoritarianism and paternalism in small and wisely measured doses are fine- as long as they are directed at your own children. Neither have any application outside of your own home- and especially not in matters of public policy.

    Tony Abbott’s recent very public application of paternalism- even by name- to Aboriginal social matters is incredibly telling. Abbott didn’t use the word ‘paternalism’ back when he was losing the RU486 debate, but there’s no question that’s his starting point for just about everything. When Abbott was elected to public office, he apparently took that to mean he was given the right to treat us all like children. Wrong, camel breath.

    Paternalism presumes that the objects of management are incapable of managing their affairs and necessarily need someone to manage them onto the shining path. Those of us who do quite well on our own are deeply resentful of fatherly meddlers in government.

  25. Graham Bell Says:

    These are private matters which should remain so; divulged, if at all, only to a spouse, a partner, a trusted family member, a friend, a health worker or a religious confidant. They are absolutely no business whatsoever of any politician, businessman or anybody else …. so they can just keep right out it all.

    Suki and everyone:
    SBS TV Tuesday 11th July 7:30pm~8:30pm AEST – “Waiting for A Heartbeat”.

  26. weezil Says:

    GB, I really wish the same amount of fervor wasted on screwing with people over shit that is simply none of their business could be applied to something useful like Aboriginal health. If anti-choicers attacked government inertia on Aboriginal health in the same way they’ve attacked women who operate their own bodies in the way that they wish, you’d be seeing 150 year old blackfellas in no time at all.

  27. Graham Bell Says:

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head! I have seen far too many good blackfellas dead but who should still be alive ……. and not one of these loud-mouthed, interfering, fake “Christians” in sight.

  28. The medical is not political » Suki Has An Opinion Says:

    […] The confirmation of a foetus having dwarfism, the news of which lead to the woman becoming acutely suicidal, needed to be medically managed by five specialists. The woman with support from her specialist team chose to abort the foetus. This story became public because of Senator Julian McGauran’s desire to shock the public into a pro-life stance. […]

  29. mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard Says:

    […] Count on Suki for the optimistic view… but she’s quite right- doesn’t Julian McGauran know quite enough about the medical histories of Australians? […]

Leave a Reply