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"Cancer Trials Delayed by Contraceptive Objections"

Added to on October 5, 2005

Sunday Business Post

cc Geraldine Kennedy, Irish Times
Cathal Goan, RTE
Mary Raftery

I'm pleased to see that the Sunday Business Post has brought to light another scandal in the Catholic Church - and just in time for the resumption of the Oireachtas as well. This should take the pressure off Senator Joe O'Toole and his Marino Institute of Education scandal - because PriceWaterhouseCooper said that the Christian Brothers are NOT diverting State funds for their own private use.

The MIE affair was a kind of updated version of the Richmond Newstreet scandal of a couple of years ago where the Brothers were supposed to have diverted funds from Canada to an Irish charity in order to avoid paying child abuse Compo in Canada. The SBP said at the time that the Revenue Commissioners were investigating the Irish charity. Have they not finished their investigations yet? I don't recall reading about the results of same in the SBT. (Actually I am a civil servant myself and made some enquiries. I was left in little doubt but that the Commissioners regarded the affair as a farce).

But of course the current scandal is more sexual than financial as it involves "repressive" Catholic teaching on contraception being applied in a hospital. However there is a precedent for that as well. Remember the scandal a few years ago about Symphysiotomy - the allegedly barbaric and un-necessary operation carried out on hundreds of women because of Catholic teaching on contraception and sterilisation.I seem to recall that the Institute of Obstetricians informed the Minister for Health that the operation was the best treatment available at the time and quoted the British Journal of Obstetrics to that effect. This was not enough for the Symp "victims" (aka compo seekers) so the Minister proposed to employ a Swedish Professor to carry out an investigation. It turned out that the professor had written articles in medical journals praising the procedure and was immediately rejected by outraged "victims"! I think the current position is that the Minister cannot find a sufficiently anti-clerical investigator who will say what the "victims" want him to say.

Your scandal is a joke - like all the others. However there is a very important issue coming up shortly which is not funny at all. Nora Wall's application for a certificate declaring a miscarriage of justice is before the Court of Criminal Appeal on 1st December. Nora Wall was the first woman in the history of the State to be convicted of rape, the first person to receive a life sentence for rape and she was subject to obscene abuse by your journalist colleagues. I was told by one of her defence team that she was convicted in a climate of hysteria created by the media and specifically by Mary Raftery's "States of Fear" programmes. I have written to Cathal Goan of RTE and also to Geraldine Kennedy of the Irish Times about this matter (since both of them employ Mary Raftery). However I have little doubt that they will do a cover up next December - the same kind of thing they are always accusing the Church of doing.

Will you give this some publicity to this genuine scandal? I will send you copies of my letters to RTE and the Irish Times. This will be a test of your integrity as a journalist and a human being.


Rory Connor
11 Lohunda Grove
Dublin 15


Cancer Trials Delayed by Contraceptive Objections

Sunday Business Post, 02 October 2005 By Susan Mitchell

Clinical trials for cancer patients at some Dublin hospitals owned by religious orders have been delayed due to objections over the use of contraception. Many experimental drugs used to treat cancer have been found to cause birth defects, and increase the risk of miscarriage, so doctors recommend that women avoid becoming pregnant when receiving the experimental treatment.

Patients undergoing experimental trials must sign a consent form and the trials are governed by protocols that safeguard patient health. The protocols are approved by the hospitals' ethics committees and the Irish Medicines Board.

The Sunday Business Post understands that questions were raised by a member of the ethics committee at St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin 4,who wanted the stipulation that female cancer patients undergoing clinical trials should use barrier contraceptives removed from the protocol, citing religious grounds.

It is understood that the issue has also arisen at another Dublin hospital.

In some cases, trials have been delayed by up to a year.

A trial involving a promising new lung cancer drug was rejected last week at one hospital.

Dr John Crown, cancer researcher and consultant oncologist at St Vincent's, said: "I was told in my hospital that it [contraception] was not consistent with the ethos of the hospital and should not be mentioned to patients."

Crown, who chairs several national studies, said the problem is not confined to St Vincent's.

"I have heard it has prevented and delayed clinical trials," he said. "Many patients have missed opportunities.

"Given the positive results achieved in some recent trials, we must ensure this does not happen again. Anyone who has ever had to deal with the tragedy of a pregnant woman being treated for cancer will understand the necessity for such precautions."

St Vincent's Hospital, and the other hospital involved, refused to respond to questions raised by this newspaper about attempts to alter hospital protocols.

"I am not going to comment or speculate on the motives of the ethics committee," said a hospital spokesman for St Vincent's. "I cannot speculate on the motivation, that you appear to be attributing to religious beliefs, as to why any particular part of a protocol may be questioned by the ethics committee."

St Vincent's Hospital was established by the Religious Sisters of Charity. It was recently incorporated as a limited company under the governance of a board of directors.

The Order of the Religious Sisters of Charity continues to own the hospital.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Sunday Business Post Sunday, October 02, 2005