Media coverage: the Unfortunate Experiment

The controversial “unfortunate experiment” conducted by Dr Herbert Green has been found to have caused the deaths of 8 cervical cancer patients.

The experiment, which took place between 1965 and 1974, delayed or withheld the treatment of 127 women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer or a pre-cancerous lesion.

The aim was to try prove that abnormal cells might not lead to cervical cancer in some women.

The experiments were found to be unethical by a judicial inquiry (the Cartwright inquiry) in 1988, but a book by Auckland University historian Professor Linda Bryder, published in 2009, questioned the finding, instead positing that Green had been the victim of a ‘witch hunt’.

However, research from the University of Otago released this week showed that Green had indeed behaved unethically, and the risks in untreated women of developing cancer were ten times higher than in their treated counterparts.  A third of the women denied treatment treatment developed cancer, and 8 women died.

Bryder is also having to apologise and pay legal costs over an erroneous statement made in her book about former University of Otago Professor Richard Seddon.

Media coverage:

ODT: Apologies issued over book

NZ Herald: Otago study backs Cartwright findings

Radio NZ: ‘Unfortunate experiment’ did profound harm – study

TVNZ/One News: “Unfortunate experiment” led to eight deaths