Auckland DHB finally sorry for 'unfortunate experiment' that may have killed dozens of women

A public apology to the women at the centre of a high-profile botched medical experiment has come as welcome news to the writer who exposed it.

Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) has finally said sorry to the 70 women who developed cervical cancer more than 50 years ago as part of what became known as the "unfortunate experiment". More than half died, RNZ reported, though there is no official figure on how many of the deaths came as a direct result of the experiment.

From 1965, under the direction of gynaecologist Herbert Green, National Women's Hospital in Auckland allowed some women with cervical abnormalities to have treatment withheld or delayed - without their knowledge or consent.

"These patients, including mothers, sisters, partners, daughters, friends and colleagues, whaea and tamāhine, were failed by people they trusted to care for their health and wellbeing," ADHB chair Pat Snedden told TVNZ.

"We apologise to the women affected for these wrongs. And to those who have been with them, their whānau, supporters and communities, we also apologise."

Sandra Coney wrote an article that appeared in magazine Metro in 1987, which exposed the experiment. She told Newshub the apology is well overdue.

"It's now 30 years since the Cartwright report was released with all its findings, so it's certainly overdue but it's very welcome, nevertheless…

"I think it will be welcomed by those women who are still alive, but obviously a lot of women have passed on - some of them through the results of what occurred at National Women's."

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists apologised last year, 30 years after Ms Coney's article. That was the first public apology from any of the institutions involved.

Ms Coney is urging Auckland University to follow suit and say sorry.

"The university it still quite sensitive about what happened, and continues to muddy the waters about it."


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