The Cartwright Inquiry – learning the lessons


In the words of eminent epidemiologist Sir David Skegg, the Cartwright Inquiry was “a watershed in the history of medicine and health care in New Zealand.”

Twenty years on, a collection of essays funded by the Law Foundation was published to help ensure that the lessons of Cartwright were not lost or misconstrued by revisionists.

As Sir David says in the foreword to The Cartwright Papers: Essays on the Cervical Cancer Inquiry 1987-88: “The recurrent attempts to discredit the Cartwright Report require the critical appraisal offered in this book, because trying to paper over past errors can only detract from good health care as well as from the truth.”

The collection, published in 2009, was edited by Associate Professor Joanna Manning of the University of Auckland Law Faculty.

“There was considerable public debate about the issues. Our book helped ignite the debate and increase public interest and awareness around the issues of informed consent, and the ethics of medical research,” she says.

The book’s genesis was in papers presented to a conference organised by the Auckland University Law Faculty and supported by the Law Foundation.

“It was extensively reviewed by specialists and the media, as far away as Britain and in newspapers up and down the country,” she says.

Associate Professor Joanna Manning

“The book is now regarded as the standard work on the Cartwright Report and the so-called Unfortunate Experiment. It will be consulted in future as the enduring collection of perspectives on these issues.”

The book includes 10 essays by expert commentators, some of whom were directly involved at the time such as Sandra Coney, co-author of the magazine articles that put the issue in the public eye, and Professor Charlotte Paul, Medical advisor to Judge Silvia Cartwright during the Inquiry.

The Law Foundation provided $10,000 in 2008 to help publish the book.

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