So much for supporting women

April 17, 2013

Dame Susan Devoy got no support from the left-wing sisterhood when she was appointed Race Relations Commissioner.

Now the appointment of another woman, Dr Jackie Blue, to the role of Equal Opportunities Commissioner, is being labelled  cronyism.

Justice Minister Judith Collins is being accused of cronyism for appointing National MP Jackie Blue as the next Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner.

Opposition parties and the Council of Trade Unions are criticising the appointment, saying Ms Blue has supported legislation that disadvantages women.

“It’s yet another example of cronyism from the Government,” said Labour MP Sue Moroney.

“Hard on the heels of Dame Susan Devoy’s appointment as Race Relations Commissioner, the Government is fast turning the Human Rights Commission into a recruitment agency for its supporters.”

Both positions are part of the Human Rights Commission.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says cronyism is a legitimate description of Ms Blue’s appointment.

“It’s very unusual for a sitting MP to be appointed to a position like this,” she told reporters.

“Jackie Blue has voted for legislation that has harmed women… she needs to explain how she is going to undo the harm.”

These women can’t see past their left-wing bias to celebrate the success of another woman.

But Dr Blue does have the support of Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) which welcomes her appointment:

The Mt Roskill MP was instrumental in securing public funding for a twelve-month treatment programme of Herceptin for New Zealand women with HER2-Positive breast cancer.

BCAC chairperson, Libby Burgess, says Dr Blue’s actions in advocating for the Government funding of Herceptin demonstrate her commitment to women’s health.

“Dr Blue is a passionate advocate for New Zealand women and her drive to see that women with HER2-Positive breast cancer received life-saving treatment in the form of Herceptin was inspirational.

“She has a clear sense of fair play, a firm commitment to equality for all and a desire to see New Zealand develop as a better society. We firmly believe Dr Blue will fulfil her new role with the energy and dedication it deserves,” Ms Burgess says.

I’d take the view of an organisation which backs up its view with evidence over the politically motivated criticism by opposition MPs and the Council of Trade Unions.


Herceptin, health & politics

August 8, 2008

Was Pharmac’s decision to not fund 12 month courses of herceptin based on clinical evidence or financial necessity?

Women’s Health Action Trust director Jo Fitzpatrick accepts it was clinical: 

[she] “reluctantly” spoke out yesterday in support of the decision, “because of concern at the high level of public misunderstanding about the drug and its effects”.

“Herceptin is promoted as the magic bullet for early breast cancer treatment,” she said. “People used to think – and many still do – that Her-2 positive breast cancer can and will be cured by Herceptin.

“We wish that was true but the evidence just isn’t there and people need to know that. At its best, 87 women in every 100 taking Herceptin get no benefit from the drug at all and may be harmed by it.”

And:

District health boards’ spokesman Murray Georgel said the lack of convincing evidence for 12-month treatments meant the decision was one “DHBs can understand”.

“In that context, and given the ability of DHBs to improve health through other interventions, it would have been concerning if Pharmac had come to DHBs and asked that the 12-month treatment be funded.”

But:

Other groups were scathing of the decision. Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chairwoman Libby Burgess called it “a cruel blow for women and their families”.

She said the drug was “life-saving”, and Pharmac’s decision was “shameful” and “simply inhumane”.

Comments on my previous post  on the issue are also divided with Ed Snack saying it is important to judge the issue on science not emotion and he points to this link as a starting point. However Macdoctor  evaluates clinical trials and concludes Pharmac’s decision was a budget one.

But then NZ Conservative and several comments at No Minister  back Pharmac.

I am not qualified to argue about the science so I’ll move to the politics and this from TVNZ:

Diane Edwards from Herceptin Heroines says “there’s not a woman in this country that can afford to vote for this government after today’s decision”.

However over at the Hand Mirror Stargazer points out:

… national are saying they will fund the full 12 month course but legally would not be allowed to do so. unless, of course, they change the law to allow political interference in medical decisions.

She is right, Pharmac is independent and there are good reasons why neither the the Minsiter of Health nor the government can intervene. But that will be lost on most people because emotion beats facts in politics. Pharmac is regarded as an arm of government so unpopular decisions from the former will rebound on the latter.

Furthermore, Keeping Stock  points out the only other OECD countries not to fund 12 month courses of the drug are Turkey and Mexico.

As any parent will tell you “nearly everyone else does it” is not a convincing argument. But if most other OECD countries fund the treatment because they can afford to, even if the science is not settled; and we don’t because we can’t afford to then regardless of Pharmac’s independence we are justified in holding the government to account.


Why can’t we afford Herceptin?

August 7, 2008

Pharmac’s announcement it won’t fund 12 month courses of Herceptin for women with aggressive Her-2 breast cancer has been labelled a cruel blow by Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chair, Libby Burgess.

Ms Burgess said it was “unbelieveable and shameful” that New Zealand women were denied the standard of care offered elsewhere.

“It’s a bad outcome, but we’re not terribly surprised by it. But we are of course extremely disappointed.

“This is a cruel blow for women and their families. Phamac’s continuing refusal to fund the treatments New Zealanders need is simply inhumane.”
 
Ms Burgess said that, to access the 12 month treatment their doctors were recommending, women had to fundraise the tens of thousands of dollars needed. 

“This adds huge stress and suffering for women when they most need support and comfort … I am amazed Government hasn’t stepped in to end this inhumane treatment of our women.

“Increased funding for medicines including Herceptin will surely become an election issue. That will give voters the opportunity to decide.

Pharmac chief executive Matthew Brougham said the cost wasn’t the reason the drug won’t be funded.

“I want to be absolutely clear; this decision is not about the cost of Herceptin. This decision rests solely on the science and our assessment, our confidence, around whether or not funding 12 months treatment with Herceptin would produce additional health benefits.”

But he also said:

[Pharmac]  had to consider all illnesses and treatments, not just cancer, and had to make a decision with limited funds about what would bring the greatest benefits.

“It’s not about who can scream the loudest and make the most noise.” Read the rest of this entry »


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