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Two luminaries lost

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 21 July 2014

“Aunty Beve” Spiers, a Justice Health Aboriginal health worker (AHW) and education officer based at Cessnock Corrections Centre in New South Wales, has died following a fall while guiding people to an Aboriginal cave art site.

Beverley Spiers, a respected Elder of the Darkinung community, was the 2009 winner of the MJA’s Dr Ross Ingram Memorial Essay Competition for her piece titled “Antecedents of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal offenders in New South Wales prisons”, a lighthearted account of a day at the Cessnock Correctional Centre when she and a nurse screened 88 prisoners for markers of kidney disease. It is available online. 1

Aunty Beve was an AHW in the criminal justice system for 30 years, and was a fierce advocate for the health needs of Indigenous people in prison.

“For the many Aboriginal people locked in prison — especially those also locked in their self-destructive rituals of negativity, resentment and blame — experience shows that the process of health education in prison is only likely to start when they are targeted, brought together and encouraged into the caring hands of Justice Health’s wonderful Health Centres, with their specially trained and enthusiastic Aboriginal Health Workers”, she wrote.

* * * *

Dr Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, has died on his 91st birthday.

Dr Relman edited the NEJM from 1977 to 1990, when the journal became the first to require conflict of interest statements from authors who owned stocks in biomedical companies when they published research that might benefit those firms.

He enforced media embargoes with a firm hand, removing media giants such as Reuters from the list of outlets receiving prepublication copies of the NEJM when Reuters broke the embargo on a study suggesting aspirin could reduce heart attack risks.

Dr Relman was a strong advocate for health care reform in the United States, writing in an editorial in the early 1980s that “we should not allow the medical-industrial complex to distort our health care system to its own entrepreneurial ends”.

Just over a year ago Dr Relman broke his neck in a fall at home and wrote of his experiences as a patient in The New York Review of Books, saying: “What is important is that someone who knows the patient oversees their care, ensures that the many specialized services work together in the patient’s interest, and that the patient is kept fully involved and informed”.

1. https: //www.mja.com.au/journal/2009/190/10/antecedents-chronic-kidney-disease-aboriginal-offenders-new-south-wales-prisons

  • Cate Swannell


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