Health

  • NSW Lower House passes abortion bill

    A historic bill to decriminalise abortion has passed the New South Wales Lower House after it was introduced two weeks ago. Members of Parliament were granted a conscience vote on the bill, which aims to remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1900 and define it as a medical procedure in its own legislation. The bill was passed just before 11:00pm on Thursday with 59 in favour and 31 against. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian voted for ... ► Read more

  • Bill legalising abortions to be introduced to NSW Parliament this week

    New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said it is “time for change” when it comes to abortion law, ahead of the introduction of a new bill which would see pregnancy terminations regulated as a medical procedure around the state. Currently, abortions in NSW are dealt with under the Crimes Act 1900. The Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 — a private member’s bill — will be introduced to the NSW Parliament this week by the independent ... ► Read more

  • Ebola fight hindered by “deadly environment” and “political and social” obstacles, UN Security Council hears

    Eradicating Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is being hampered by “a variety of political and social factors”, the head of the United Nations mission to the country told the UN Security Council on Wednesday (local time). Leila Zerrougui, the UN Special Representative and head of the UN’s Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO), said that militants have created a “deadly environment” for aid workers who are “being specifically threatened and killed by armed groups” ... ► Read more

  • Charges dropped against Canberra man who helped end wife’s life

    A Canberra man who helped his wife to die has had assisted suicide charges against him dropped after prosecutors decided it is not in the public interest to prosecute him. Neil O’Riordan’s wife, Penelope Blume, was in the advanced stages of motor neurone disease when she ended her life in his arms at their home. They shared a last meal and talked until the early hours of the morning before Ms Blume used an item ... ► Read more

  • Merkel trembles uncontrollably for second time this fortnight

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen trembling uncontrollably during a ceremony with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a second such incident this fortnight. The 64-year-old has no history of serious health issues and a spokesperson insisted that there was “nothing to worry about”. During a farewell ceremony for Germany’s justice minister, Ms Merkel began visibly shaking and crossed her arms as if to brace herself. Two weeks ago Ms Merkel was seen shaking more severely when ... ► Read more

  • Experimental drug can encourage bone growth in children with dwarfism

    Researchers report that an experimental drug can increase the average annual growth rate of children with a form of dwarfism. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers say the results of a study jointly conducted by John Hopkins Medicine, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and seven other medical institutions found that vosoritide increased the growth rate of children and teenagers with achondroplasia. The study of 35 subjects found vosoritide boosted the height of the subjects ... ► Read more

  • Victorian assisted dying law commences

    From today, Victorians will be able to access assisted dying services, as voluntary euthanasia legislation passed in 2017 comes into effect. The main provisions of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 commenced in Victoria on 19 June 2019. The Act allows Victorians with terminal illnesses to end their lives with dignity, subject to strict controls and requirements. “This is about giving people a compassionate choice, a dignified option at the end of their life – if they qualify – ... ► Read more

  • Ivan Milat returned to prison after receiving terminal cancer treatment

    Notorious serial killer Ivan Milat has been returned to prison after receiving treatment for terminal cancer at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick. The 74-year-old was transported in the custody of the NSW Department of Corrective Services’ extreme high security escort unit to Long Bay Prison Hospital in Sydney’s south on Tuesday. He spent the last two weeks in hospital receiving treatment after several lumps were found in his stomach and throat earlier this ... ► Read more

  • Man dies inflight after ingesting almost 250 packets of cocaine

    A Japanese man has died en route from Colombia to Japan after ingesting 246 packets of cocaine, authorities say. The man’s Aeromexio flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Hermosillo, northern Mexico on Friday (local time) after the man began having seizures and convulsing. He boarded the plane in Mexico City after arriving from Bogota, Colombia, and was headed for Narita, Japan. The office of the Attorney-General for Sonora issued a statement confirming ... ► Read more

  • Water restrictions in Sydney for first time in a decade

    Water restrictions will be enforced in Sydney for the first time in a decade. From Saturday 1 June 2019 all hoses must be fitted with a trigger nozzle or instant off switch, and can only be used to water gardens before 10:00 am and after 4:00 pm. The watering of hard surfaces — including paths and driveways — will be prohibited, as will the use of sprinkler systems. Normally level one restrictions come into force ... ► Read more

  • Pope compares abortion to hiring a hitman

    Pope Francis has said that abortion can never be condoned, even when the foetus is likely to die, and has urged medical practitioners and priests to encourage families to continue with such pregnancies. At a Vatican-sponsored anti-abortion conference, the Pope said opposition to abortion is not a religious issue, but a human one. “Is it licit to throw away a life to resolve a problem?” he asked. “Is it licit to hire a hitman to ... ► Read more

  • Blue Mountains back burning postponed following health warnings

    The Rurual Fire Service (RFS) has announced all hazard reduction burns will be postponed for the next 24 hours following health warnings issued by the NSW Health Department. For days now Sydneysiders have woken to the smell of smoke because of back burning in the Blue Mountains, with air quality reaching “hazardous” levels yesterday afternoon. Smoke is expected to linger in Greater Sydney until around midday, at which point the air should clear. The RFS ... ► Read more

  • One million species threatened with extinction: intergovernmental report

    Nature is declining at unprecedented rates and the rate of extinctions is accelerating, warns a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment … presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, ... ► Read more

  • Indonesia: At least 17 dead from floods and landslides

    At least 17 people have been killed on the Indonesian island of Sumatra as days of heavy rain triggered floods and landslides. The severe weather has also lead to the evacuation of about 13,000 people. Officials have said the full extent of the damage is not yet known, with some areas still inaccessible. Damage to bridges and roads has affected nine districts and towns across Bengkulu province. “The impact of this disaster may increase,” warned ... ► Read more

  • US threatens to veto UN resolution on wartime rapes

    The United States is threatening to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution on combatting rape as a weapon of war because it refers to reproductive and sexual health, senior UN officials and European diplomats say. Germany, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, hopes the resolution will be adopted at a special Security Council session on Tuesday. However, the US is threatening to veto the resolution because it makes reference to ... ► Read more

  • Scientists restore circulation and cellular activity in dead pig brains

    Scientists at Yale University have restored circulation and cellular activity in 32 pig brains, four hours after the animals had died. The landmark study found the death of brain cells could be halted and that some connections in the brain were restored. However, no signals from the brains indicated awareness or consciousness. It was previously thought that brains experience an irreversible decline within minutes of having no blood supply, but the study’s results challenge that ... ► Read more

  • Cancer cure con artist Belle Gibson ordered to court over unpaid $410K fine

    Cancer cure con artist Belle Gibson has been summoned by the Federal Court to explain why she hasn’t paid a $410,000 penalty for breaching consumer protection laws. Ms Gibson will appear in the Federal Court on 14 May for examination of her financial affairs, following her failure to comply with the order to pay the fine. She has previously been warned that she faces imprisonment if she fails to pay the penalty — which was ... ► Read more

  • Government to close Christmas Island mere months after reopening it

    Less than four months after reopening Christmas Island detention centre, the Government has announced it will close the facility. The centre’s reopening was a $185 million knee-jerk reaction to the passing of the Medevac bill, which gives doctors a greater say in refugee medical transfers to Australia from Manus and Nauru, but ultimately leaves the decision to transfer in the hands of government. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the legislation would encourage people smuggling and ... ► Read more

  • Macquarie Park scaffolding collapse kills apprentice

    One man has been killed and another critically injured after scaffolding at a Macquarie Park high-rise collapsed on Monday. The deceased, Christopher Cassaniti, was a formwork apprentice who only just turned 18 last week. Despite efforts to save him, he died at the scene. The second worker, 39, was freed from the rubble and taken to Royal North Shore Hospital under a police escort. Mr Cassaniti’s parents attended the scene shortly after the collapse. NSW ... ► Read more

  • PM announces reopening of Christmas Island detention facility

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced that the Government will reopen the Christmas Island immigration detention facility, following the Government’s defeat on medical treatment for refugees yesterday. The Prime Minister said the facility will be reopened in anticipation of an influx of asylum seeker boats. “We have approved putting in place the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facilities, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of ... ► Read more

  • Government loses vote on own legislation as refugee treatment bill jumps constitutional hurdle

    The Federal Government has lost a vote on its own legislation for the first time in 78 years. On Thursday afternoon the House of Representatives voted in favour of a contentious bill that will allow asylum seekers in detention centres to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment, with doctors having a greater say in the process. Although Labor indicated it was willing to compromise on amendments to the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) ... ► Read more

  • Call for “empathy for the elderly” as Aged Care Royal Commission hearings begin

    Hearings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety began in Adelaide today, with victims’ families and seniors’ groups among those to give evidence. Peter Gray QC, senior counsel assisting the Royal Commission, opened by saying a “culture of appreciation and respect for older people is needed”. Mr Gray also told the Commission that changes made to the aged care sector over the past 30 years have created “unintentional complexities” and the multitude ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 13 January – 19 January 2019

    Theresa May: Government has confidence of Parliament, time to deliver Brexit British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for bipartisan talks to develop a Brexit deal that will pass the House of Commons. See OPMagazine’s coverage of this story here. NSW Premier under pressure amid fresh calls for pill testing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is standing firm on her opposition to pill testing, despite pleas from the family of a teenager who died of a ... ► Read more

  • NSW Coroner to investigate musical festival deaths

    A directions hearing will be held next Tuesday as the NSW Coroner opens an inquest into recent deaths at music festivals in the state. The inquest will focus on five deaths since September 2018: Diana Nguyen and Joseph Nguyen Nhu Binh Pham at the Defqon 1 festival on 15 September 2018. Callum Brosnan, who died after attending the Knockout — Games of Destiny festival on 9 December 2018. Joshua Tam, who died following the Lost ... ► Read more

  • NSW Government to ban mobile phones in primary schools

    The NSW Government will introduce a ban on mobile phones in state primary schools from 2019 to reduce bullying and distractions in classrooms, Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Seven’s Sunrise on Thursday morning. “Mobile phones, unfortunately, are not only distracting but also causing stress for young children, and we can’t have that continue,” Ms Berejiklian said. “We’re sending a very strong message to everybody that children need to be protected.” The announcement followed an expert review of mobile ... ► Read more

  • Asylum seekers to allege torture in class actions against Australian Government

    Asylum seekers will allege that the Australian Government subjected them to “torture, crimes against humanity and the intentional infliction of harm” as part of two class actions concerning Australia’s offshore processing system. The cases have been filed in the High Court of Australia and represent all remaining detainees on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and on Nauru. Their legal team, led by Julian Burnside QC and human rights lawyers from the non-profit National Justice ... ► Read more

  • Government faces defeat on critical refugee legislation

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing a humiliating defeat as his Government may be unable to block a bill that would expedite medical treatment for refugees held in offshore detention centres. Independent MP Dr Kerryn Phelps introduced a bill to the House of Representatives on Monday to require refugee children and their families in Nauru and Manus Island be transferred to Australia for medical and psychiatric assessment. But, despite the possibility of receiving support from ... ► Read more

  • PM promises conscience vote on LGBTI+ students after Parliament delays bill

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of breaking a promise to end discrimination against LGBTI+ students, after the Federal Parliament failed to reach agreement on a bill and delayed the matter until next year. Mr Morrison has responded by pledging to introduce his preferred version of the legislation as a private member’s bill, with Coalition MPs to be given a conscience vote on the issue. Under his proposal, religious schools would not be able ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 19 November – 24 November 2018

    Ivanka Trump used personal email account for government business The daughter of US President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, last year used a personal email account to discuss or relay official White House business, according to emails released by a nonpartisan watchdog group. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Dozens of homes at threat as NSW bushfire flares up A bushfire emergency has been declared in NSW’s Hunter region with homes threatened at Salt Ash ... ► Read more

  • Total fire bans in eastern NSW as temperatures soar

    Total fire bans are in place in four areas of eastern New South Wales as temperatures hit 37 degrees Celsius in parts of Sydney on Friday. The fire danger rating in the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges regions was upgraded from “very high” to “severe”, and a total fire ban is in place in those areas. The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) warned that high temperatures and strong winds of up to ... ► Read more

  • Queensland Parliament votes to legalise abortion

    The Parliament of Queensland voted on Wednesday night to legalise abortion in the state, in an historic reform to the centuries-old prohibition. The Queensland Government’s proposal to legalise abortion passed through the Parliament with 50 votes to 41, after all MPs were given a conscience vote. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 will ensure that abortion services can be accessed and performed without fear or stigma. “It’s taken a century to ... ► Read more

  • Nike offers professional contract to athlete with cerebral palsy

    Justin Gallegos has become Nike’s first professional athlete with cerebral palsy, after the sports brand offered him a contract when he completed a marathon. Mr Gallegos, a student at the University of Oregon, was met at the finish line by a video crew and Nike’s Insights Director John Douglas. Although he thought the cameras were there to film the event, Mr Gallegos was surprised when Mr Douglas offered him the contract, breaking down in tears ... ► Read more

  • “Australia is a stimulant nation” according to Criminal Intelligence Commission report

    A comparison of 23 countries shows Australia ranks second in estimated stimulant consumption, according to a report released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) on Tuesday. The fifth report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program included comparisons with the United States, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and 18 European Union members, and found that Australia is a leading consumer of MDMA, cocaine, amphetamine, and methylamphetamine. The ACIC noted a decrease in methylamphetamine consumption between December ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 30 September 2018 – 6 October 2018

    Indonesia earthquake: death toll rises to nearly 1350 The number of confirmed deaths in Indonesia following Friday’s earthquake and tsunami has risen to 1,347, disaster response officials say. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. US Senate votes on Kavanaugh confirmation The United States Senate voted on whether to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday, after President Donald Trump gave the Senate Judiciary Committee an FBI report on accusations of sexual misconduct ... ► Read more

  • States and territories agree to scrap “tampon tax”

    The 10% tax on tampons and pads will be removed after states and territories agreed to make sanitary products exempt from the GST, bringing an end to an 18-year campaign calling for the tax to be scrapped. Treasurers met on Wednesday morning to discuss the matter and unanimously agreed to pass the Federal Government’s proposal. The products to be made exempt are expected to include tampons, pads, menstrual cups, maternity pads and leak-proof underwear, but ... ► Read more

  • US, Mexico and Canada agree to new trade deal

    On Monday (local time), the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada formally agreed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a new trade deal. NAFTA, which has been in force since 1994, will be superseded by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to govern the more than US $1.2 trillion in trade between the three countries. Most of the key provisions of USMCA will not come into effect until 2020, to ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 23 – 29 September 2018

    Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces second sexual misconduct allegation United States Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman, following allegations last week that he sexually assaulted a woman at a party in 1982. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Trump boasts met with laughter by UN General Assembly United States President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, which ... ► Read more

  • NSW Health confirms fifth case of legionnaires’ disease in Western Sydney

    A fifth case of legionnaires’ disease has been reported to health authorities as Western Sydney’s outbreak continues. On Tuesday NSW Health confirmed an interstate resident had contracted the infection after visiting the Lidcombe area earlier this month. Western Sydney Local Health District officials have warned anyone who recently visited Lidcombe to be wary of symptoms including fever, chills, coughing, and shortness of breath. A water cooling system in the suburb was decontaminated on 17 September ... ► Read more

  • Federal Government announces free meningococcal vaccine for Australian teens

    Australian teenagers will receive a publicly-funded meningococcal vaccine against four strains of the potentially fatal disease, the Federal Government announced on Tuesday. The vaccine will be added to the National Immunisation Schedule from April 2019, and will be available to more than a million Australians aged 14–19 over the next four years at a cost of $52 million. The announcement comes as cases of meningococcal have risen in Australia, with 382 cases in 2017, up ... ► Read more

  • Government, aged-care sector to establish royal commission scope

    The Government will work with aged-care providers to determine the terms of reference for the newly announced royal commission into the sector, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday. Mr Morrison announced the royal commission in response to findings of widespread non-compliance and abuse of elderly people at aged-care facilities. According to the Minister for Health Greg Hunt, there was a 177% increase in the number of aged-care homes where a serious risk to ... ► Read more

  • Indian Supreme Court decriminalises consensual gay sex

    The Supreme Court of India decriminalised consensual gay sex in a unanimous decision delivered in New Delhi on Thursday afternoon (local time). A five-judge bench determined that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” with up to life imprisonment, shall no longer apply to homosexual activity. “Any discrimination on the basis of one‘s sexual orientation would entail a violation ... ► Read more

  • Syrian President’s wife Asma al-Assad diagnosed with breast cancer

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer, Syria’s official state news agency reported on Wednesday (local time). Asma al-Assad, the British-born first lady of Syria, is currently being treated for early stage breast cancer at a military hospital in Damascus. The Syrian President tweeted a photo of him sitting along his wife as she received treatment, saying, “With strength and confidence and faith, lady Asma al-Assad starts the first stage of ... ► Read more

  • Homeopathy all but eradicated from National Health Service in England

    Publicly-funded homeopathy is all but over in England, after Bristol’s Clinical Commissioning Group decided to cease providing homeopathic treatments under the National Health Service (NHS). Bristol was the last place in England to offer NHS-funded homeopathic treatment, and it will now be provided only in exceptional circumstances. Homeopathy uses treatments based on the idea that “like cures like” — that minute doses of natural substances that produce similar symptoms as an illness can be used ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 29 July – 4 August 2018

    Trump’s offer to meet with Rouhani rebuked on both sides US President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been shot down both from within his own administration and senior figures in Iran. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Trump on Mueller investigation: “Stop this rigged witch hunt right now’ US President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to condemn special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in ... ► Read more

  • Australian scientists discover new anti-cancer drug without usual side-effects

    Scientists in Melbourne have discovered a new class of anti-cancer drug that lacks the usual side-effects of current cancer treatments. Published in the journal Nature, their research shows the class of drugs puts cancer cells permanently “to sleep”. The research was a joint effort by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Cancer Therapeutics CRC, The University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the CSIRO. Unlike conventional treatments such as ... ► Read more

  • Government announces increased privacy protections for My Health Records

    In response to concerns over the adequacy of privacy protections, the Federal Government has announced changes to the My Health Records system to allow deletion of records and restrict government access to patient data. After meeting with doctors from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and College of General Practitioners to discuss privacy concerns on Tuesday night, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced changes will be made to the My Health Records Act 2012. Australians will be ... ► Read more

  • Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Bill would cost $32.6 trillion, working paper claims

    A working paper published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University claims that US Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed Medicare for All Bill (“M4A Bill”) would cost approximately USD $32.6 trillion over the first decade of implementation (2022–2031). According to the paper’s author, Charles Blahous, the “projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7% of GDP in 2022, rising to nearly 12.7% of GDP in 2031 and further thereafter.” The increased costs would ... ► Read more

  • Week in Brief: 22 – 28 July 2018

    Nine Network to takeover Fairfax Media The Nine Network will takeover Fairfax Media in a deal rumoured to be worth around $4 billion, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood announced on Thursday morning. See OPMG’s coverage of this story here. Greece declares state of emergency as lethal wildfires rage near Athens Greece has declared a state of emergency after two separate wildfires raged through towns near its capital Athens, killing at least 20 people, injuring over 100 ... ► Read more

  • Liberal MP Tim Wilson opts-out of My Health Record, says scheme should be ‘opt-in’

    Liberal MP Tim Wilson has opted out of the Government’s new My Health Record scheme, calling for the medical record system to be “opt-in” to give people more of a choice. The system will centralise individuals’ health records to ensure easy and secure access by self and medical professionals at any time required. The Melbourne-based MP voiced his criticism of how the scheme is being introduced, saying that a default position of not being included ... ► Read more

  • Australians struggle to opt out of My Health Record

    Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said 20,000 Australians had already opted out of the My Health Record system, many have reported experiencing difficulty completing the process. The My Health Record system is a centralised national digital database of Australians’ health information, intended to give patients better control over their information and make access by health professionals easier. Users who don’t want a My Health Record have until 15 October 2018 to opt out. Some users ... ► Read more

  • Australians have three months to opt-out of national health database

    Australians who do not want their medical records stored in the national electronic database will have three months from today to opt-out. Although the Federal Government’s Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has moved to reassure Australians that their My Health Record will be secure, Australians can opt-out until 15 October 2018. “If you haven’t deliberately opted out by the end of 2018, you will have a My Health Record,” Dr Steve Hambleton of the ADHA said. ... ► Read more

  • WTO rules for Australia in tobacco plain packaging dispute

    Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 has contributed to improving public health, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel ruled on Thursday. The panel rejected arguments brought by Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Indonesia that alternative measures would be equally effective, and disagreed that Australia’s law unjustifiably limited the exercise of intellectual property rights. The four complainant countries alleged that Australia had breached article 2.2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, which prohibits ... ► Read more

  • Abortion clinic “safe zones” introduced in NSW

    Photo credit: J Bar (Wikimedia) — CC BY 3.0 licence The NSW Parliament has passed legislation that imposes 150-metre “safe access zones” around clinics and hospitals that provide abortions, under which protesters face imprisonment for harassing people outside of the facilities. The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018, which now awaits assent from the Governor of NSW, aims to ensure the privacy and safety of women accessing the clinics, and ... ► Read more