It’s been a privilege to write for Insight+ these past 12 years, exploring that rich vein. To all who have read and engaged with what I’ve written, thank you.

WHAT do Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade vaginal eggs, the wisdom of Socrates, and the multiple foreskins of Jesus have in common?

They’ve all appeared in columns I’ve written for Insight+ and I couldn’t resist giving them one final outing in this, my last, column for the publication.

When the founding editor of Insight+, Brad McLean, asked me back in 2010 to write a regular column for the new digital publication he was establishing for the MJA, I don’t think either of us imagined I would end up doing it for 12 years.

For the first issue, I wrote about inadequate funding for mental health (some things never change).

Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was facing a barrage of criticism over this, including the public resignation of his chief advisor on the subject, Professor John Mendoza.

Unusually, the Australian of the Year at the time was a psychiatrist, Professor Patrick McGorry, who had also been outspoken in his criticism.

“Rudd must have wondered why on earth he’d given the honour to a psychiatrist rather than insisting on a cricketer,” I wrote at the time.

Professor McGorry told me the Prime Minister had summoned him to Canberra for a meeting. He’d been expecting some kind of peace offering but instead saw the PM lose his job in favour of Julia Gillard.

I’ve written hundreds of columns since then, covering health policy, ethics, new technologies, research integrity and just about every variety of quackery you could imagine.

From colloidal silver, to black salves, to the Miracle Mineral Solution (otherwise known as bleach), to a certain actor’s jade eggs; there’s never been a shortage of people seeking to exploit the gullible.

Several of the columns have been selected for the annual anthology of The Best Australian Science Writing, including pieces on the power of placebos, scaremongering about the harmful impact of digital devices (that’s where Socrates made his appearance), alleged dangers of coffee, the shameful history of medical “treatments” for homosexuality, and the unacknowledged non-Western pioneers of immunisation.

The columns did not, however, receive positive acclamation from every quarter. I regularly upset the homeopaths and other spruikers of alternative treatments, and didn‘t recruit many fans among those who campaigned against abortion rights or rejected the scientific consensus on climate change.

The antivaccine movement’s extreme fringe was particularly vociferous in its criticism whenever I wrote about immunisation.

Hilariously, there was an attempt to get the Health Care Complaints Commission to investigate my work at one point. Slightly less funny was the apparent death threat I received through the mail in 2021 in response to my writing about COVID-19 vaccines.

“We believe the crimes you are involved in are acts of genocide,” the anonymous authors wrote.

It’s an irony that perhaps the most outrage I ever sparked was from a column appealing for moderation in discussions of infant circumcision. It was guns drawn at five paces in the comments section over that one.

And, in case you’re wondering, yes, that was the column that mentioned the sacred foreskins of Jesus.

It hasn’t all been light-hearted fun. There were columns covering failures in the health system, neglect of vulnerable populations, the counterproductive war on illegal drugs, the catastrophic bushfires of 2019–20 and, of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In late 2020, I wrote an unusually personal column, as the death of my paediatrician father made me reflect on the changes he saw over a career that began in the middle years of the past century.

Medicine is one of the great achievements of our creative, inquiring minds. It encompasses some of the finest qualities of our species, along with the darker attributes that shadow any human endeavour.

There’s compassion, courage and truth-telling to be found in medical stories, but also at times prejudice, hubris and hypocrisy. As subject matter, it offers endless possibilities for a writer.

It’s been a privilege to write for Insight+ these past 12 years, exploring that rich vein. To all who have read and engaged with what I’ve written, thank you.

In keeping with the spirit of this column, I’ll leave you with one final nod to quackery and pseudoscience, in this case the much-touted detox.

Jane McCredie is a Sydney-based health and science writer.



The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless so stated.

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6 thoughts on “Exploring the rich vein of stories in medicine

  1. Wendy says:

    Thank you, Jane, for your thoughtful, challenging and often amusing articles. We shall miss you. Best wishes for the future.

  2. Kate Duncan says:

    I have now spent 50 years in ‘The Medical Profession’ (having commenced 1st year of medical school in 1972).
    Yours is one of the most refreshing and entertaining perspectives I have ever encountered. I would love to go on hearing about your medical journey.
    Best Wishes

  3. Ediriweera Desapriya says:

    You are an ardent writer and I really enjoy reading your interesting column every Sunday evening (Vancouver Canada). Thank you for your excellent contributions. We are going to miss your excellent, often critical and timely masterpieces of medicine, health care, science, sociology and public policy.

  4. Anthea says:

    Thank you Jane, I’ve always enjoyed reading your thoughts and perspectives on issues that come very close to our medical hearts. This has been especially true over the past few years. It’s bizarre to think you’ve been brave by simply being honest and truthful but such is the times we live in. Good luck from here!

  5. Peter Callan says:

    We will miss you Jane. I read every article you write.

  6. Randal Williams says:

    In the 1960s there was a TV series about New York police , called ‘The Naked City’ which always ended with the narration “There are ten million stories in The Naked City ; this has been one of them.” I have always felt that there are millions of medical stories out there waiting to be told. Every doctor must have them, whether their own interesting or notable cases, experiences over a long career, views on new fads or treatments or just about human foibles and weaknesses. There have been very successful medical authors such as Chekhov, AJ Cronin, Richard Gordon and Robin Cook, who have been able to translate their medical experiences into entertaining and informative fiction, but we can’t all do that. We can all write about our experiences or views on modern medicine, as Jane McCredie has done for so long. I have particularly enjoyed her exposes of commercialised quack remedies.

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