Blog Archives

A view of the inner cemeteries, Reuben Johnson

Mind that Child: A Medical Memoir
Simon Rowley with Adam Dudding
Penguin, $35.00, ISBN 9780143771982

We can Make a Life: A Memoir of Family, Earthquake and Courage
Chessie Henry
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776561940

Dr Simon Rowley is a Senior Consultant Neonatologist at the Auckland City Hospital, and Adam Dudding is an award-winning journalist. Mind that Child is Rowley’s professional memoir, in which he reflects on his experiences and career as a neonatologist and on his interest in neonatal brain development.

Chessie Henry is a freelance copywriter. We can Make a Life, her first book, is a family memoir centred around her father, a rural Kaikoura GP who was awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal for his role in the collapsed CTV building following the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

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Posted in Health, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Private life and public record, Kate Hannah

The Unconventional Career of Dr Muriel Bell
Diana Brown
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781988531304

Perhaps some are surprised that a scientist whose impact on New Zealand’s health, particularly the health of women and children, could have been, up until now, overlooked – but even this well-written, timely biography reveals much about how women’s lives and careers in the past are hidden from view.

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Posted in Biography, Health, Non-fiction, Review

Turning a blind eye, Rae Varcoe

Doctors in Denial: The Forgotten Women in the “Unfortunate Experiment”
Ronald W Jones
Otago University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947522438

My first acquaintance with National Women’s Hospital was as a final-year medical student in 1968. It was an unpleasant experience of an utterly alien culture, disturbingly hostile to women in general, with women medical students being no exception. Just how indifferent the hospital medical profession was to the wellbeing of those in its care did not become publicly apparent until the publication of Sandra Coney’s and Phillida Bunkle’s Metro piece “Unfortunate Experiment at National Women’s” in 1987, which led to the Cartwright enquiry the following year.

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review

Science in the headlines, Rae Varcoe

The Edge of Life: Controversies and Challenges in Human Health Mike Berridge BWB Texts, $15.00, ISBN 9780909321339 BWB Texts is publishing a series of “Short books on big topics by great New Zealand writers” each month. They are edited by

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review

The fungibility of human longevity, Charlotte Paul

The Healthy Country?: A History of Life and Death in New Zealand
Alistair Woodward and Tony Blakely
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869408138

Non-Māori New Zealanders lived longer than any other peoples on earth between 1876 and 1940. Figuring out why is the starting point for this fascinating and scholarly study. Of course, even this statement begs a question. These figures apply to only a segment, not the total population of New Zealand, yet the comparisons are generally with total populations of other countries. Nevertheless, the non-Māori life expectancy was far ahead, and this was the only data available until 1913 (when Māori deaths were first collected). Moreover, epidemiologists Woodward and Blakely are properly even-handed and comprehensive in investigating both Māori and non-Māori life expectancy from pre-contact until 2011.

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Posted in Health, History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Lessons from history, Bronwyn Labrum

Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th Century New Zealand
Margaret Sparrow
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739360

Someone I follow on Twitter reported that a friend of hers had no idea that abortion is yet to be decriminalised in New Zealand. This was tweeted in the context of the debates about the 2014 general election, when issues about abortion were barely raised. Increasingly liberal practice since the late 1970s has made abortion services more widely accessible, and extremely safe. But those who were part of that social media conversation, as well as a much wider audience, deserve to read this second, much needed book from the redoubtable Margaret Sparrow, well-known for her long career in reproductive and general health and publicly recognised for her services to medicine and to the community.

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Posted in Gender, Health, History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

No drive-by answers, David Cohen

Sorrows of a Century: Interpreting Suicide in New Zealand, 1900-2000
John C Weaver
Bridget Williams Books, $60.00,
ISBN 9781927277232

All of us seek happiness, Pascal declared centuries ago, even at the point of a warm gun. “This is without exception,” argued the author of the Pensées:

Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Delivery suite, Rae Varcoe

The Rise and Fall of National Women’s Hospital
Linda Bryder
Auckland University Press
ISBN 9781869408091

Many readers will be familiar with the furore which arose when Linda Bryder‘s A History of the ‘Unfortunate Experiment’ at National Women’s Hospital (2009) concluded that Herb Green’s management of pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix was not an experiment and that Dame Sylvia Cartwright was in error. Bryder’s view was that Green’s non-interventional management of such cervical abnormalities was in line with that of other academic units overseas and, as the patients were not randomised, but treated on a case-by-case basis, the treatment was not experimental. This continues to be an area of vigorous debate (see letters in the New Zealand Listener for 19 and 26 April 2014). The Cartwright Enquiry book was a diversion from the research and construction of this comprehensive history of National Women’s Hospital for which Bryder received a Marsden Fund grant in 2003.

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Posted in Health, History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Diagnostic criteria, Rae Varcoe

Being a Doctor: Understanding Medical Practice Hamish Wilson and Wayne Cunningham Otago University Press, $35.00, ISBN 9781877578366 I have been a doctor for 45 years. How I wish that this volume had been available 46 years ago. I emerged from

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review

Profiting from health, Brian Easton

Democratic Governance and Health: Hospitals, Politics and Health Policy in New Zealand Miriam J Laugesen and Robin Gauld Otago University Press, $40.00. ISBN 9781877578 274 I have long puzzled over the point of local democracy in the highly centralised state

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review
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