Wednesday, May 09, 2007

IMA Slams British Doctors' Boycott Call

The Israel Medical Association rejected a call for a boycott of the Israel Medical Association by 130 British physicians and its expulsion from the World Medical Association, which is an umbrella organization of national medical associations that, ironically, is headed by IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar.

The doctors, led by Prof. Colin Green, a surgeon at University College London, and Dr. Derek Summerfield, who has consistently attacked Israel in the British Medical Journal, claimed in a letter to The Guardian newspaper: "The IMA has forfeited its right to membership of the international medical community. [It] has a duty to protest about war crimes... but has refused to do so. Appeals to the World Medical Association and the British Medical Association have also been rebuffed," they said.

The move followed a call by 18 Palestinian health organizations that appealed to fellow professionals abroad in March to recognize that the IMA "has forfeited its right to membership of the international medical community."

The British doctors expressed "grave concern" about the health-related impact of Israeli policy on Palestinian society. "Persistent violations of medical ethics have accompanied Israel's occupation. The Israeli Defense Forces has systematically flouted the fourth Geneva Convention guaranteeing a civilian population unfettered access to medical services," they said.

They claimed that instead of being given immunity, medical staff had been killed, with hundreds of ambulances fired upon by Israeli troops, and said the passage of essential medicines like anti-cancer drugs and kidney dialysis fluids were blocked.

IMA chairman Blachar rejected all the claims, saying that his association does not serve as an arm of the government. "This is yet another in the series of fantasies in which Mr. Derek Summerfield lives," he said. He noted that dozens of Palestinian ambulances have transported explosives into Israel and that only some of them were caught in time. The IMA, Blachar continued, has always acted to ensure health services to civilians in the territories, and a document prepared by the IMA with legal experts reformulated ethical guidelines for treating civilian populations in areas of confrontation and was adopted as mandatory by the WMA.

The IMA suggested that the Palestinian Medical Association sign a joint declaration based on the document, said Blachar, but it refused.

Whenever it receives a report from Israel Physicians for Human Rights or other organizations, he continued, the IMA takes action in every case in which the right to medical treatment has allegedly been violated. Blachar added that the Palestinian Authority refused to accept from Israel drugs and dialysis solutions that it was ready to transfer.


Drug for Scots only?

Nutty British health bureaucrats disagree with one-another -- too bad for patients in England

A cancer drug has been approved for prescription in Scotland that is unlikely to be obtainable for patients who live south of the Border. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) said that Sprycel was cost-effective for use in the chronic phase of myeloid leukaemia, providing a lifeline for patients who have developed resistance to the “wonder-drug” Glivec. But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which performs the same value-for-money assessment for England and Wales, does not have Sprycel on its list of forthcoming appraisals.

That is likely to mean that English and Welsh patients will find it difficult to get the drug on the NHS. Technically, doctors can prescribe any drug that is licensed, as Sprycel is, but in practice, primary care trusts are reluctant to pay for any that lack the imprimatur of NICE. In recent months the Scottish consortium has proved more ready to approve cancer drugs than NICE. Among these are Alimta for mesothelioma, Erbitux for head and neck cancers, Tarceva for lung cancer and Velcade for myeloma in patients who have failed on at least two prior therapies.

Sprycel, from Bristol-Myers Squibb, inhibits the growth of leukaemia cells, enabling adults with some types of leukaemia to control the disease over a sustained period. It is the first option for patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia who have developed resistance to Glivec, the drug that transformed treatment of the disease. After some time, a proportion of patients find that Glivec can no longer control the disease. Sprycel gives these patients an option. It is also useful in treating patients with some types of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Introduced last December, it has been reviewed by SMC, and declared cost-effective.

The number of patients who could benefit potentially is small, perhaps no more than a few hundred a year. That may enable primary care trusts to take a more lenient view, especially as patients will already have been on Glivec and Sprycel is costed at about the same price.

Tessa Holyoake, honorary consultant haematologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: “Today’s announcement is an important step forward in the management of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). “Dasatinib [Sprycel] offers a new option for patients in the chronic phase of the disease who have developed resistance or intolerance to prior treatment including imatinib [Glivec], who previously had a very poor prognosis due to the lack of effective alternatives.” Tony Gavin, of Leukaemia CARE, said: “We are keen to see equal and fair access to treatment for patients throughout the UK. While the SMC decision is obviously great news for Scottish CML patients, we are very concerned that patients living in other parts of the UK may be denied access because of funding constraints.”

Welcoming the announcement, Frank Pasqualone, managing director of Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals, said: “We are delighted with the SMC’s decision and hope that CML patients in the chronic phase with resistance or intolerance to imatinib have been given renewed optimism in their fight against this rare but life-threatening disease. “Recommendations such as this make medicines more accessible to the patients who need them. Sprycel builds on our company’s long legacy of providing innovative oncology medicines to patients.”

CML, although relatively rare, is a devastating condition that accounts for about 15 per cent of all leukaemias. About 2,600 people are currently affected by it in the whole of Britain. In Scotland, about 60 new cases are diagnosed each year.


More on British teacher abuse

Teachers accused of abuse of pupils should be guaranteed anonymity while the allegations are investigated, the Lord Chancellor said yesterday. Lord Falconer of Thoroton said that teachers' reputations were being ruined by the "allegations culture" and an unfair disciplinary process that could leave their careers in tatters even if allegations proved to be completely unfounded.

The Lord Chancellor also called for a more "common sense" approach to human rights. Head teachers were perfectly justified, for example, in refusing unreasonable demands from Muslim pupils who claimed that it was their human right to wear Islamic dress in schools. He cited the decision of a Luton school to stop Shabina Begum wearing a jilbab - a long loose gown - to class.

Lord Falconer told the conference of the National Association of Head Teachers that teachers should not face automatic suspension when an allegation was made against them. False accusations should no longer be automatically reported to the local authority or appear on Criminal Records Bureau checks and job references, he said, and schools should have some means of making public statements of a teacher's innocence as soon as they were cleared of a spurious allegation.

Suspensions and investigations that lasted for years "ruin lives often utterly unfairly", he said. If teachers facing accusations were automatically suspended, regardless of the allegations' merits, that knowledge could spread very quickly, ruining reputations, Lord Falconer said. Nor was it fair that "patently false" accusations should be allowed to follow teachers through their entire career.

Teachers have long complained that allegations against them are recorded by the school and reported to the local authority. This means that the accusations appear on criminal record checks and job references, even when the teacher is cleared, blighting their chances for career advancement. "Where it's demonstrably the case that the allegation is false there should be greater discretion as to whether it's recorded," Lord Falconer said.

Mick Brookes, the association's general secretary, said that heads were sometimes able to protect teachers from false allegations by not reporting them to the local authority, yet there was nobody to protect heads when they fell victim. An accusation against a head would automatically be referred to the authority, which would suspend them at once. "If an allegation is made against a head, the cavalry come out very quickly. Social services are there in squads and there is an immediate, very high escalation," Mr Brookes said.

As a head teacher he had taken the risk of not reporting four cases in which his teachers had been accused of abuse because he had found all the cases to be unfounded. Those teachers were left to get on with their careers. He contrasted this with the case of a head who has been suspended and who attempted suicide as a result, even though the union expects him to be cleared of the claims against him.

Lord Falconer rejected the union's demands for sanctions against those who levelled false accusations against teachers and heads, arguing that this might deter those with genuine grievances from reporting them. He also ruled out changes to criminal investigations of teachers.

Public misunderstanding of human rights legislation partly explained the "allegations culture", the Lord Chancellor suggested. An overzealous interpretation of the Human Rights Act had led to claims in the name of "human rights" that were nothing of the sort.


British Labour Party fading: " In the South West, where I was following the local results, the most striking trend was the virtual disappearance of the Labour Party. There are now 109 councils in England which either have only a single Labour councillor or - most of them - none at all. Four of these are in South or West Somerset; in a large number of our local Somerset wards, there was no Labour candidate. In England, Labour lost more than a quarter of its council seats; it is now in third place, 300 behind the Liberal Democrats, who are 3,000 behind the Conservatives. In Wales, Labour had its lowest share of the vote in almost 90 years

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