Doctor numbers on the rise
THE number of doctors in Australia rose by nearly a fifth between 2004 and 2008, according to a report in The Australian. Figures published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed there were 68 689 employed doctors in 2008, with all but 4600 in clinical roles, compared with 58 211 working doctors in 2004, an increase of 18% in four years.


Abortion trial sets precedent
A MEDICAL ethicist says the not guilty verdicts handed down in a historic Queensland abortion trial could set a legal precedent for women who procure their own abortion, the Brisbane Times reports. Associate Professor Malcolm Parker, of the University of Queensland, said that, according to a strict interpretation of the criminal code, it appeared an offence had been committed. Last week, a Cairns District Court jury dismissed the case against a young couple who had been charged with procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion.


IVF children taller
CHILDREN born through IVF are taller than those who are conceived naturally, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the Fertility Society of Australia in Adelaide, ABC News reports. Dr Mark Green, a research fellow from the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, told the meeting the results of a study of 200 children show children born through IVF are up to 2.6 cm taller on average than naturally conceived children.


First embryonic stem cell treatment
A PATIENT in the United States is reported as the first person in the world to be treated with human embryonic stem cells, according to ABC News. Doctors injected the cells into the patient’s damaged spinal cord at a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. If results from the procedure are successful, it is hoped embryonic stem cells can be used to treat conditions ranging from heart disease to diabetes and blindness.


Support for plain cigarette packs
DESPITE intense opposition from the international tobacco industry, Health Minister Nicola Roxon says Australia’s plan to introduce plain-wrap cigarettes is likely to be followed by other countries, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The tobacco industry spent a reputed $4 million during the recent Australian federal election campaigning against plain packaging. Ms Roxon told the Herald she had encountered “a lot of interest” in plain packaging from health ministers at a recent Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development conference in Paris.


Anti-vaccine group loses charity status
AN anti-vaccination group in NSW has been stripped of its charitable status, according to ABC News. The NSW-based Australian Vaccination Network lost the right to make public appeals for money, following a decision by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, after the group refused a directive from the Health Care Complaints Commission to post a warning about advice on its website.


Heart data via mobile phone
AN electrocardiogram-sensor system that sends information about a patient’s heart, brain and muscle activities to a mobile phone has been developed by a Dutch research centre, according to a report in The Age. The wireless monitor processes data that can be sent over the internet to the patient’s doctor. It could benefit patients with chronic conditions that require constant monitoring.


Gene studies help unravel obesity
AN international research consortium says it has identified new gene sites linked to how fat is distributed in the body and obesity, which could explain the complex biology underlying one of the world’s most pressing public health problems, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The findings are based on two studies involving nearly 250 000 people, the largest studies so far to unravel the genetic basis of common human traits, researchers said. The two papers were published by Nature Genetics.

Spontaneous remissions do happen
SOME senior doctors say while prayer can help give hope and focus to religious patients, events that could be considered miraculous do sometimes happen, according to a report in The Australian. Sydney oncologist David Bell, who co-authored a book on spontaneous remission, said he knew of about 400 confirmed cases worldwide in the past 150 years.

No reports from radiation safety body
THE Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the nation’s peak radiation safety body, has failed to publish annual critical incident reports for the past 6 years despite commitments to do so, according to a report in The Australian. The inaction comes as nuclear medicine errors have been identified as a significant risk to patients, and despite the priority placed on promoting safer use of radioactive products in the federal budget.


Posted 18 October 2010

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