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What's in the news: May 27 -- Morgentaler suit against New Brunswick moves forward

Morgentaler v New Brunswick suit to go ahead
The New Brunswick government was rebuffed in its efforts to have a legal challenge against its restrictions on publicly funded abortions, brought by Dr Henry Morgentaler (right), thrown out. The government had argued that Dr Morgentaler had no legal standing to challenge the government on abortion funding because he is not a woman, but the Court of Appeal has now ruled, in a unanimous decision, that the suit can go ahead.

"With respect," wrote Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau in dismissing the government's appeal and ordering them to pay Dr Morgentaler's legal costs, "neither the Province’s primary nor its alternative contention comes close to passing muster." [Morgentaler v New Brunswick decision, Court of Appeal of New Brunswick (PDF)] [CBC News]

New Brunswick Justice Minister TJ Burke has said that his government may appeal to the province's Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeal's decision to uphold the initial ruling. [Canadian Press] Peggy Cooke, an employee at Dr Morgentaler's only clinic in the province, in Fredericton, told CBC News she suspected the government of attempting to drag out the process until Dr Morgentaler dies, in order to avoid going to trial. [CBC News]

H1N1 pandemic fears recede
The worst of the H1N1 flu outbreak is over for the time being, according to Dr David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer.

"It looks at this point like we're over the worst of it in Canada for this season," he said. "But, again, I'm going to hedge my bets on that because we're watching very closely and it's still within the incubation period of previous cases, so you could see a second spike." [Canadian Press]

NB trauma system can't find a boss
New Brunswick is still struggling through its year-and-a-half-long search for someone to head the province's trauma system, after senior trauma care leader Dr Andrew Trenholm bowed out of the running and another candidate accepted a job in Quebec. A third candidate has been identified, however, and is supposed to be interviewed this Thursday. [CBC News]

No helicopters, no outrage?
Dr Edward J Harvey, the co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Surgery, penned an impassioned editorial that appears in next month's issue lamenting the absence of Canadian criticism about the death of actress Natasha Richardson after a fall at Mont-Tremblant ski resort.

Ms Richardson was taken by ambulance -- the provincial government doesn't have a helicopter for emergency medical transfers -- from a hospital in the Laurentians to a trauma centre in Montreal but died several days later.

Dr Harvey writes that while governments have been reluctant to pay for the expensive helicopter services, it has been empirically shown that they can save lives. "Why does it take the death of a famous actress to raise the question of why we do not have regionally appropriate health care policies? Why is the death and suffering of our population at large not enough to change policies? The obvious answer in this and other cases of nonhomogeneous health care delivery is that these policies are not political flashpoints. Until an election is won or lost on health care inadequacies, there will continue to be nonentities in the political landscape. We as physicians should no longer sit idly by as governmental policies set by largely noninformed bureaucrats cause such deficiencies in health care." [Canadian Journal of Surgery (PDF)]

Blood sugar in pregnancy predicts diabetes later
Mildly abnormal blood sugar levels in pregnant women, even levels below those required to make a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, are a sign that the women are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, in Toronto.

"Although we already know that women who've had gestational diabetes need to be monitored, the study suggests that even women with mild glucose abnormalities might benefit from diabetes prevention and detection strategies," Sunnybrook researcher Baiju Shah said. [ICES news release]

Aglukkaq signs Brazil pact
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq signed a memorandum of understanding with her Brazilian counterpart, Dr Jose Gomes Temporão, to establish more cooperation between our two countries on issues like pandemic preparedness and healthcare for indigenous people. [Health Canada news release]

Nunavut's historian health minister
As though Nunavut doesn't have enough healthcare problems to keep Health Minister Tagak Curley occupied, he has thrown himself into the centre of another, totally unrelated controversy: did the Inuit on Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 19th-century exploration of the Northwest Passage resort to murder and cannibalism? Mr Curley spoke at the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, England, to refute those claims. [CBC News]

A doctor's story of arrival
Dr Zardasht Gaf described how he came to leave the Kurdish region of Iraq to come to Canada, using a fraudulent passport provided by a smuggler to make his way to Ottawa in 2003 and then fighting for refugee status. Now, Dr Gaf begins a family practice residency at McMaster in July. [Toronto Star]

And a story from south of the border:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill health policy professor Jonathan Oberlander is interviewed by health reporter and media critic Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review about the role of health IT and electronic medical records in healthcare reform and the effects the US federal stimulus package is likely to have on health IT. Many of the same considerations Dr Oberlander discusses, it seems to me, apply to Canada as well. [CJR] Readers of Canadian Medicine may remember Dr Oberlander, who is an expert on the similarities and differences between the American and Canadian healthcare situations, from an article published in November called "The death of convergence theory."

Photo: Ashlea Wessel, National Review of Medicine

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