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Howard's End: Baby Hearts Scandal

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." So says Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And New Zealand has breached it - again. Maree Howard writes.

Breaking news that Greenlane Hospital has removed the hearts of 1354 babies, supposedly for research purposes, without their parents’ consent has sent a shudder throughout New Zealand.

My mind immediately travelled back to the Nuremberg Charter following the war crimes trials of the Nazi's relating to medical experiments. Is that too over the top? No, it is not!

How on earth could these public servants in the health system ever come to believe that what they were doing was right?

My God, it defies comprehension and decency.

New Zealand operates on a world stage, national and international, comprising the communities not only of New Zealand but of other societies, especially those with whom we share common values.

The shrinking of the nation state is one aspect; another is the development of a global village in which New Zealanders expect no lower standards of protection than those enjoyed in other communities.

There is a legitimate expectation that when New Zealand signed up to the various human rights conventions and treaties, that our Government and its public service will abide by them. It signalled to New Zealand society and to the world that we will - but then we don't.

The fundamental norm in our society is the dignity of the individual and yet I heard some medico spokesman on the radio this morning saying that there is no property in a dead person.

Which planet are these people living on? Who then is the master - the medico's or the individual person or their guardian?

There is a recognition that the conduct of those exercising public functions should be of a higher standard than that required of the citizenry at large. Have we learnt nothing from the Cartwright Inquiry?

There's now talk from medico's that a number of the babies heart's were taken before there were rules and codes relating to informed consent - as if that is justification or excuse.

Can these medico's then explain how they have complied with international law in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified by New Zealand long before any code of patient rights took effect?

And what about Article 5 - "No one shall be subjected to........inhuman or degrading treatment..."

The medical profession might call it "research" or even "clinical trials" but in anybody's normal use of the English language that means - experiment. And there are laws against it.

The medical profession will be judged by the standards of society and those standards have been measured by the courts; - "as the standards of the ordinary person travelling on the Kilbirnie bus."

Do we need accountability through an inquiry? - You bet we do! Society deserves no less.

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