Monthly Archives: May 2013

Judy Wilyman: immune to vaccination facts

I’ve written two blog posts on anti-vax campaigner, Judy Wilyman (aka Roslyn Judith Wilyman) and, kindly, in return, she’s written a malevolent little missive  about me which I found hugely entertaining.

Not too long ago, Ms Wiley’s shenanigans were featured in a front page article in the Illawarra Mercury. I can’t imagine who might have tipped them off!

mercury-front_wilyman

My first blog post about this rogue researcher  – Judy Wilyman, PhD candidate, Wollongong University ‘false, dangerous, misleading and disrespectful’castigates Wilyman for a callous attack on the parents of a baby girl who died of pertussis (whooping cough).

The second, Why Wollongong’s abdication of responsibility for Wilyman won’t wash, criticises Wollongong University for their failure to censure Wilyman for unethical actions.

Ms Wilyman is yet another example of a person whose academic integrity is diluted (or, perhaps, more accurately, drowned) by an ideological agenda. (See my previous articles on Dr Catherine Lennon who suffers from the same affliction.)

My mantra is that the best defence against this kind of thing is to shine a light on it. That’s what I did with Dr Lennon last week and, this week, Christine Bayne has done a fine job in pulling together a detailed ‘biography’ of Ms Wilyman and her nefarious activities as an anti-vaccination activist.

Thanks to a link in Christine’s blog post, I was able to read a review of one of Wilyman’s ‘academic articles’ by Dr David Hawkes from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. Dr Hawkes, is an experienced reviewer with expertise in molecular virology and pharmacology. According to Dr Hawkes, Ms Wilyman’s paper is flawed by errors in grammar, spelling, referencing and structure, has an unacceptably low rate of references, misrepresents research data, makes sweeping statements with no supporting references, and her overall approach to the data  is to try to frame it in a way that will support her philosophy. This is not an honest or acceptable approach to academic research.

If Wollongong University gives Judy Wilyman a PhD, it will reveal its academic standards to be no better than a US diploma mill.

That said,  I’ll refer you to Christine Bayne’s blog – Diluted Thinking in Australian Healthcare – and her article, Campaigner: Judy WilymanIt’s worth a read although it will make your stomach turn.

Chrys Stevenson

See also:  

Grieving mother Toni McCaffery was villified by anti-vaccination bullies – Daily Telegraph 26/5/13

Grieving parents speak out against anti-vaccine venom – Daily Telegraph 26/5/13

Dr Catherine Lennon, Doctors for the Family – NSW Hansard

NSW ParliamentFollowing is the Hansard report on Cate Faehrmann MLC’s comments in the NSW Parliament about the actions of Dr Catherine Lennon, devout Catholic, NSW President of Doctors for the Family,  founder and board member of Matercare Australia and opponent of Ms Faehrmann’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill. That Bill is being debated, today (23 May 2013) in the NSW Parliament.

In Parliament yesterday, Ms Faehrmann quoted extensively from my blog post on Dr Lennon. I hope my readers and fellow bloggers will be heartened by the fact that we ‘citizen journalists’ can bring such issues to light and that we can have an impact if we speak out.

The mainstream media does not have to control the public debate.

But, if we ‘citizen journalists’ are to claim our power to expose and influence, we must not become the monster we are fighting. We must enter any campaign with an absolute commitment to honesty and ethics – even when this restriction may make it more difficult to achieve our aims.

I live by the maxim, attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. It guides everything I do.

Ironically, Dr Lennon probably feels the same way.

But, in fighting against that which, she believes is ‘evil’, Dr Lennon has crossed the line. The end does not justify the means if the means are deceptive, dishonest, misleading and designed to misrepresent the truth. This is not only a sin against God (should you believe in him), it is a sin against mankind. This is not the way to argue or to win your case and I will never stoop to that level.

I hope to see Dr Lennon do the decent thing and step down from her position as president for Doctors of the Family NSW and from her board position on Matercare NSW.  She has done neither of them proud.

Hansard – New South Wales Legislative Council, 22 May 2013

EUTHANASIA PARLIAMENTARY BRIEFING

The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN [10.15 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House the behaviour of Dr Catherine Lennon, who attended a briefing that I held for members on my Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill a few weeks ago. I will quote Chrys Stevenson and her wordpress blog called “That’s my philosophy” at length. At that meeting a person identified herself as the adviser to the member for Castle Hill, Dominic Perrottet. It turned out that this person was Dr Catherine Lennon, a Catholic pro-life activist and president of the quasi-religious lobby group Doctors for the Family. Dr Lennon is not a member of Mr Perrottet’s staff, as she indicated; she is his sister-in-law. However, she had not been invited in her own right nor had she been invited to attend the private briefing, although that is how she identified herself.

After she left the briefing, Dr Lennon made two telephone calls to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine to complain that Dr David Leaf had made a statement to the effect that all emergency specialists are trained in euthanasia. That statement is disgraceful and untrue. Mr Perrottet has been adamant in his conversations with a number of people, including me, that Dr Lennon was not a member of his staff and that he had not asked her to attend the briefing on his behalf, nor did she have his permission to represent herself as his proxy.

In her email to members of Parliament several days afterwards, Dr Lennon capitalised on the credibility inherent in her professional standing as a doctor but curiously failed to disclose her other interests. Nowhere in that email did Dr Lennon mention her position as president of Doctors for the Family, nor did she admit to being a founder and a board member, along with her husband, Richard, of Matercare Australia—a non-profit Catholic organisation that specifically enjoins medical professionals to act as prophetic witnesses “by reflecting on the teaching and practice of contemporary maternal health care in the light of the Gospel and its values most recently presented in the Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.”

In short, in writing to New South Wales members of Parliament, Dr Lennon fails to disclose an important vested interest. It is clear that in all things medical Dr Lennon answers primarily to the doctrines of the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Pope. One wonders whether she discloses that to her patients. In her email Dr Lennon misuses the term “involuntary euthanasia”—which is always illegal; what she means is “non-voluntary euthanasia. Euthanasia without explicit request—non-voluntary euthanasia—is not ideal, but unbiased studies recognise that it is sometimes unavoidable if the best interests of the patient are to be served. A doctor or an academic well versed in the literature on voluntary euthanasia would not make this basic error. It is the strategy of a propagandist to use an emotive term that is easily misunderstood by those not familiar with the terminology.

Dr Lennon complains that during the parliamentary briefing neither Dr Leaf nor Dr Ryan “gave any factual evidence, medical references or accurate statistics”. It is rather difficult to provide bibliographic references in a short presentation, but Dr Leaf’s 2012 article on the safety of voluntary euthanasia legislation around the world, published in the British Medical Journal, provides a number of informative references on this subject. Conversely, email lends itself perfectly to hyperlinks and bibliographic references, yet Dr Lennon’s email provides no usable links or academic sources to help members of Parliament check the validity of her claims.

For example, Dr Lennon alleges that, according to the Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine in February 2008, “most doctor assisted suicides in Oregon were not requested due to physical pain but most were due to ‘existential’ suffering and some patients were physically healthy”. The statement is technically true, but by omitting the context of this factoid Dr Lennon cleverly gives the false impression that otherwise healthy patients in Oregon are being euthanised simply because they are depressed. That is categorically untrue and a scandalous misinterpretation of the data.

The question of course, which Dr Lennon neatly evades, is not who asks for voluntary euthanasia but who receives it. It is true that 93.5 per cent of patients who take advantage of Oregon’s death with dignity legislation say they are less concerned about physical pain and more concerned about loss of autonomy. Some 92.2 per cent cite the decreasing ability to participate in the activities that made life enjoyable and 77.9 per cent say that they are concerned about loss of dignity. However, under Oregon law a patient may request a prescription for lethal medication on the basis of their “existential suffering” until the cows come home, but unless they are terminally ill, mentally competent and have less than six months to live there is not a doctor in Oregon who can legally oblige. It is strange that Dr Lennon did not think it was important to make that clarification in her email to members of Parliament.

Dr Lennon also accuses Dr Leaf of failing “to acknowledge that most patients asking for lethal injections or other forms of assisted suicide actually have depression which affects their cognition and usually responds well to treatment and support”. The kindest interpretation of the many howlers in Dr Lennon’s email to members is that she has cut and pasted propaganda from pro-life bloggers such as Alex Schadenberg and Paul Russell, who was formerly the senior officer of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide’s Office of Family and Life, but she has not bothered to go back to the source documents. That is unforgiveable for someone who is academically trained.

——————

A quotation which sent to me during the last couple of days suggests that, even according to her fellow-Catholics, Dr Lennon has let the team down badly.

The following quote is from Father Frank Brennan SJ’s address ‘Re-imagining the Mission — A Pilgrimage of Faith’, presented at the Catholic Education Sandhurst Conference: A Pilgrimage of Faith, presented 24 May 2012 at Catholic College Bendigo.

“If we as the People of God rejoicing in the name ‘Catholic’ are to bring the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel, we need to ensure that our Church is an exemplar of the noblest values espoused by people of all faiths and none.We need to recommit ourselves to charity, justice and truth both within our own structures when dealing with each other, and in all our dealings with those outside the membership of our Church, especially those who differ with us conscientiously about the moral challenges of the Age.”

Chrys Stevenson

Dr Catherine Lennon – Any means to a ‘moral’ end?

Dr Catherine Lennon

Dr Catherine Lennon

Voluntary euthanasia is a subject which inherently incites passionate debate from both advocates and opponents. Of course, it is only right that voluntary euthanasia legislation should be approached cautiously, with due regard for the rights and safety of patients. Those who find flaws in current or proposed legislation should, of course, state their case forcefully – using evidence and reason as a means of persuasion.

Unfortunately, this is not what happens commonly in debates over voluntary euthanasia legislation.

In a scholarly (2008) tome  on voluntary euthanasia in Europe, John Griffiths, Emeritus Professor of Sociology of Law at the University of Groningen, complains that:

“Imprecision, exaggeration, suggestion and innuendo, misinterpretation and misrepresentation, ideological ipsedixitism, and downright lying and slander (not to speak of bad manners) have taken the place of careful analysis of the problem and consideration of the Dutch evidence.”

It would not be inaccurate to say that the vast majority of this kind of breathtakingly mendacious propaganda emanates from the Catholic Church and its supporters.

Too harsh?

Last year, I had the privilege of viewing a yet-to-be released video interview between Els Borst, the politician who proposed the Netherland’s voluntary euthanasia bill and Neil Francis, formerly the CEO of Australia’s peak body on dying with dignity, Your Last Right.

In the video, Ms Borst complains that, in the late 1990s, after L’Osservatore Romano, the ‘semi-official’ newspaper of the Holy See, printed ‘absolute lies’ about voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands she headed a delegation to the Vatican. Together with the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Ambassador to the Holy See, Ms Borst told three top-level officials that if the lies didn’t stop, the Netherlands would sever diplomatic ties with the Vatican. It was that serious.

Earlier this month, I became aware of Sydney GP, Dr Catherine Lennon; a woman who shows  the lengths to which religious zealotry can drive a person to simultaneously believe they are supporting all that is good, Christian and moral, while acting in a way that is completely contrary to any Christian ethic as I understand it.

In the vast scheme of things, perhaps, Lennon’s sins are minor. But, taken to its nth degree, it is this kind of flawed and dangerous reasoning that drives religious zealots to believe that God not only wants them to fly planes into buildings, he will reward them for it.

On Thursday, 2 May, this year, Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann, introduced her Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill to the NSW Parliament. The Bill is due to be debated on Thursday, 23 May. Ms Faehrmann’s Bill is similar to the Death with Dignity Act which has seen physician assisted dying operate safely and successfully in Oregon since 1997.

The day before she presented her Bill to the NSW Legislative Council, Ms Faehrmann convened a private briefing for members of the NSW Parliament and their staff. This was not a public forum; members of the general public were not invited and entry was – or should have been – by invitation only.

As attendees mingled prior to the briefing, Richard Mills, President of Dying with Dignity NSW, was in a circle comprising Cate Faehrmann and invited speakers, Dr Chris Ryan and Dr David Leaf. Richard put out his hand to introduce himself to a blonde woman nearby. She, in turn, introduced herself to the group as Catherine, an adviser (parliamentary terminology for a staffer)  for Dominic Perrottet, the member for Castle Hill.

But, as it turns out, this was not the truth at all.

Subsequently, it became apparent that this person was Dr Catherine Lennon, a Catholic pro-life activist and president of the quasi-religious lobby group Doctors for the Family. Dr Lennon mentioned none of this when she introduced herself to Ms Faehrmann et al; and, for good reason. Dr Lennon is not a member of Mr Perrottet’s staff, nor had she been invited, in her own right, to attend the private briefing. Effectively, she was a gate-crasher.

NSW Labor MLC, Helen Westwood, who attended the briefing but was not privy to Ms Lennon’s introduction, explains why Dr Lennon’s presence at the parliamentary briefing is a matter for concern.

“If Dr Lennon did misrepresent herself as a staff member of a serving member of parliament (MP), her credibility as an honest broker of information in this debate must be damaged. Also, I am concerned that if she misrepresented herself that her actions jeopardise the future of Members’ briefings.

MPs are invited to attend Members’ briefings on the understanding that these are not a forum open to the public or the media, they are organised on the basis of an information session where MPs can hear from experts and ask questions that will assist them in understanding the Bill/Policy that they will be voting on without fear of having their comments/questions reported.

It allows for a free flow on information and can be very helpful to MPs in fulfilling their responsibilities to their constituency. I am concerned that MPs will be reluctant to attend Members briefings on these very controversial & polarising issues in the future if they believe their participation/attendance can be used as a weapon against them by members of the public with their own political agenda.”

Dr Lennon’s deception would not have become apparent if she had been content to quietly attend the meeting, take her notes and report back to the religious activists she was really representing. But religious zealotry is, by nature, neither quiet nor subtle.

After she left the briefing, Dr Lennon made two telephone calls to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) to complain, in ‘very aggressive’ tones, that Dr Leaf had made a statement to the effect that all emergency specialists are trained in euthanasia – the implication being that the college trains doctors to kill people.

That is, of course, untrue, Dr Leaf had said nothing of the kind and had not mentioned the college in his presentation.

It was a spiteful move on Dr Lennon’s part and one designed, specifically, to damage Dr Leaf professionally.

Not content with that, Dr Lennon then wrote a diatribe (Catherine Lennon – Email to NSW Parliament), specifically targeting Dr Leaf, which she emailed to every MLC in NSW. The email is potentially defamatory and chock-full of misleading propaganda about voluntary euthanasia. 

Hearing of this bizarre train of events, I decided to find out more about the mysterious Dr Lennon. Why had she introduced herself as a staffer for the member for Castle Hill when it was clear that she was, in fact, a Sydney GP and pro-life activist?

Following a long telephone conversation with Mr Perrottet, the member for Castle Hill, I was able to establish that Dr Lennon is not an ‘adviser’, not a member of his staff, but his sister-in-law.

In his conversations with me and, later with Dr Leaf, Mr Perrottet was adamant that Dr Lennon was not a member of his staff, he had not asked her to attend the briefing on his behalf, nor did she have his permission to represent herself as his proxy.

Mr Perrottet clearly hadn’t asked for an ‘adviser’ to attend the meeting on his behalf – he told me he had no interest in the Bill.

Later, speaking to Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann, Mr Perrottet said he had spoken to Dr Lennon and she admitted to him that she had represented herself at the meeting as his ‘adviser’.

I would love to be a fly on the wall at the next Perrottet/Lennon family gathering!

One has to marvel at the zealotry which rationalises, not only using a family member’s position to deceptively gain entry to a private gathering, but in so doing, exposing that innocent kinsman to political embarrassment.

Dr Lennon’s post-briefing email to MPs is a study in Catholic pro-life propaganda.

As Cate Faehrmann says:

“It seems that nothing is beyond the religious right to block reform so desperately wanted by the vast majority of the community, including wrecking the careers of doctors who support voluntary euthanasia law reform. Their tactics often include lying and deception yet they seem to get away with this time and time again. It’s disgraceful and they need to be called on it every time they do it.”

Well, Cate, I’m calliing it.

In her email, to MPs, Dr Lennon is keen to capitalise on the credibility inherent in her professional standing as a doctor, but curiously fails to disclose her other interests. Nowhere does Dr Lennon mention her position as President of the dogma-driven Doctors for the Family.

Neither does she admit to being a founder and board member, (along with husband, Richard), of Matercare Australia – a non-profit Catholic organisation which specifically enjoins medical professionals to act as ‘prophetic witnesses’ “by reflecting on the teaching and practice of contemporary maternal health care in the light of the Gospel and its values most recently presented in the Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae.

In short, in writing to NSW MPs, Dr Lennon fails to disclose an important vested interest: it is clear that, in all things medical, she answers, primarily, to the doctrines of the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Pope. One wonders if she discloses that to her patients?

Ophelia

Ophelia

Throughout her email to MPs, Catherine Lennon nonchalantly tosses about claims and statistics torn ruthlessly from their contexts. I have a mental image of Dr Lennon, Ophelia-like, madly but merrily tearing petals off flowers and casting them adrift in the stream.

This is a favourite strategy of pro-life religious campaigners. The academic and medical articles which report on these issues are complex. Often, the terms used – such as ‘involuntary euthanasia’, ‘non-voluntary euthanasia’ and ’euthanasia without explicit request’– are not what they seem to the uninformed reader and this is expertly exploited.

In fact, in her email, Dr Lennon misuses the term ‘involuntary euthanasia’ (which is always illegal) when what she means is ‘non-voluntary euthanasia’. Euthanasia without explicit request (non-voluntary euthanasia) is not ideal, but unbiased studies recognise that it is sometimes unavoidable if the best interests of the patient are to be served.

A doctor or academic well-versed in the literature on voluntary euthanasia would not make this basic error. It is a propagandist’s strategy to use an emotive term that is easily misunderstood by those not familiar with the terminology.

Dr Lennon complains that, during the Parliamentary briefing, neither Dr Leaf nor Dr Ryan “gave any factual evidence, medical references or accurate statistics”.

It’s rather difficult to provide bibliographic references in a short presentation. But Dr Leaf’s 2012 article on the safety of voluntary euthanasia legislation around the world, published in the British Medical Journal, provides a number of informative references on this subject.

Conversely, email lends itself perfectly to hyperlinks and bibilographic references, yet Dr Lennon’s email  provides no usable links or academic sources to help MPs check the validity of her claims.

She alleges, for example, that, according to “the Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine Feb 2008”, “most doctor assisted suicides in Oregon were NOT requested due to physical pain but most were due to “existential” suffering and some patients were physically healthy.”

Why does Dr Lennon fail to provide the name of this study or its authors?*

The statement is, technically, true but, by omitting the context of this factoid, Dr Lennon cleverly gives the false impression that otherwise healthy patients in Oregon are being euthanised, simply because they are depressed. That is categorically untrue and a scandalous misrepresentation of the data.

The question of course, (which Dr Lennon neatly evades) is not who asks for voluntary euthanasia, but who receives it. Yes, it is true that the majority of patients who take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity legislation say they are less concerned about physical pain and more concerned about loss of autonomy (93.5%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (92.2%), and loss of dignity (77.9%).

However, under Oregon law, a patient may request a prescription for a lethal medication on the basis of their ‘existential suffering’ until the cows come home but, unless they are terminally ill, mentally competent, and have less than six months to live, there’s not a doctor in Oregon who can legally oblige.

It’s passing strange that Dr Lennon did not think it was important to make this clarification in her email to MPs.

Adding to her campaign of misinformation, Dr Lennon accuses Dr Leaf of failing “to acknowledge that most patients asking for lethal injections or other forms of assisted suicide actually have depression which affects their cognition and usually responds well to treatment and support”.

In fact, under Ms Faehrmann’s proposed legislation, all terminally ill patients seeking assisted dying must have a psychiatric assessment. As in Oregon, if you suffer from depression which affects your cognition, you would not be eligible under the legislation before the NSW Parliament.

The kindest interpretation of the many howlers in Dr Lennon’s email to MPs is that she has cut and pasted propaganda from pro-life bloggers such as Alex Schadenberg (Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, a Canadian Roman Catholic pressure group) and Paul Russell  (formerly Senior Officer of The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide’s “Office of Family and Life”) but has not bothered to go back to the source documents. For someone who is academically trained, this is unforgivable.

A more cynical interpretation might be that Dr Lennon read the source documents, but wilfully chose to misrepresent them in order to make her case; knowing, full well, that most MPs are too busy or simply not interested enough to plough through pages of academic, medical and government reports to verify her claims. In other words, she is trying to play NSW MLCs for fools.

Whatever the reason, there is so much that is wrong in Dr Lennon’s email to members of the NSW Parliament, it’s hard to know where to start.

For example, Dr Lennon cites the Remmelink Report as evidence that, “in The Netherlands, legislation similar to that being proposed to the NSW parliament, resulted in a high number of patients being killed by involuntary euthanasia”.  Conveniently, Dr Lennon fails to provide the bibliographic reference which would show MPs that the Remmelink Report was tabled in 1991 – 22 years ago!

Similarly, Dr Lennon fails to mention that the Remmelink study was undertaken 10 years before the introduction of the current voluntary euthanasia legislation in the Netherlands. The problems identified in Remmelink, are problems addressed by the subsequent Dutch legislation – not problems arising from it. In short, Remmelink provided a pre-legislation ‘baseline study’ by which the success of subsequent legislation could be measured.

Feigning concern about high rates of what she erroneously terms ‘involuntary euthanasia’ in Europe, what Dr Lennon doesn’t tell NSW MLCs  is that, following the experiences of the Netherlands and Belgium, introducing voluntary euthanasia legislation is more likely to reduce deaths  [p.6] ‘without explicit request’ than increase them.

DWD Graph

In her email, Dr Lennon complains that, while speaking about the use of Nembutal, Dr Leaf omitted to mention the current case of Erin Berg who “took Nebutal [sic] as instructed by Dr Phillip Nitchke’s [sic] book (and spoke on the phone to him) … had excruciating side effects and died after 10 days in intensive care.”

From Dr Lennon’s tortuous account, it sounds like Erin Berg rang Dr Nitschke, received instructions on where to buy and how to administer Nembutal, and acted under his medical supervision, doesn’t it?

In fact, Ms Berg contacted Dr Nitschke’s Exit International wanting to attend a workshop, but once she ‘came clean’ about her condition and psychiatric background she was told that Exit couldn’t help her.

Dr Lennon knows this. Dr Nitschke was recorded on video last year, publicly correcting Dr Lennon on this point, yet she continues to wilfully misrepresent his involvement in her tirades against voluntary euthanasia.

The case of Erin Berg’s death is far more complex than Dr Lennon suggests and is currently being investigated by the West Australian coroner.  Rather than Dr Nitschke being to blame, it seems the focus is on failures of the WA mental health system. Ms Faehrmann’s legislation will not facilitate psychiatric patients taking a plane to Mexico, buying Nembutal from some back street veterinarian, and taking the drug – and possibly, other drugs – unsupervised, in a hotel room!

Ms Berg’s death was tragic, but it was suicide, not voluntary euthanasia. It bears no relation to the carefully monitored, closely scrutinized system of voluntary euthanasia proposed in Ms Faehrmann’s bill.

It is disingenuous of Dr Lennon to conflate Ms Berg’s death with Ms Faehrmann’s bill and, in fact, Ms Berg’s sisters have said publicly that, despite what happened to their sister, they are not opposed to a person’s right to choose a peaceful death. It is, therefore, exploitative and opportunistic for Dr Lennon to keep dragging Erin Berg into the voluntary euthanasia debate – especially before the Coroner’s report is in.

As I researched Dr Lennon, it became clear that her propaganda filled email and her attack on Dr Leaf is not uncharacteristic. She ‘has form’.

Dr Nitschke’s experience with Dr Lennon is similar to Dr Leaf’s. Asked to debate Dr Lennon by the City Bible College last year, Dr Nitschke found she favoured personal attacks over an honest debate on the research and evidence relating to voluntary euthanasia. Dr Lennon’s attack on Dr Nitschke was so unseemly and aggressive that the embarrassed convenors of the debate, the City Bible College, later apologised to Dr Nitschke for inadvertently placing him in that position.

According to Nitschke, “Although the Erin Berg issue did annoy me at the City Bible Forum, I think it was Lennon’s intimate knowledge of the first AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) inquiry [into Dr Nitschke’s fitness to hold  medical registration] that had just been launched that was of most concern to me at the time. Indeed it is this seeming close association between AHPRA and the Christian Right that continues to worry me,  with their involvement in the second (concurrent) enquiry.”

pesticideDr Lennon also made something of a name for herself in her previous role as medical spokesperson for Australians Against RU486.  Bioethicist, Dr Leslie Cannold, encountered Dr Lennon during a radio interview on ABC’s Australia Talks Back, during the debate over the drug which has since been approved for use in Australia. Dr Lennon was given to referring colourfully to RU486 as ‘human pesticide’.

Dr Cannold told me that her encounter with Dr Lennon was “the only time I ever ‘lost it’ during the whole campaign.”

The transcript of the debate is unavailable, but Dr Cannold recalls saying something to the effect of, “For God’s sake, Catherine, you’re a doctor – you at least have to stray somewhere near the truth!”

Cannold says she was shocked and distraught that Dr Lennon was, “trading on being a medical professional but so unconstrained by medical fact.”

Dr Lennon was the medical adviser for the book, A Consumer’s Guide to the pill and other drugs, by pharmacist, John Wilks. According to a gushing review of the book on Amazon, Mr Wilks (in agreement with the Vatican and, presumably in concert with his ‘medical adviser’, Dr Lennon) argues that condoms are ineffective in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS and STDs and in preventing pregnancy. Another, less enthusiastic, reviewer brands the book, ‘thinly disguised pro-life drivel’.

I’ll leave the last word on Dr Lennon and her ilk to Dr Leslie Cannold. During our telephone conversation, Dr Cannold reflected:

“There seems to be a subset of Christian activists who seem to believe that the means justifies the end. Their own internal conversations with each other basically have the same element that radical movements have – that any means are acceptable in order to achieve the end which, they believe, is moral. It’s particularly misleading for the public when the person uses the title, ‘Doctor’, in front of their name, but pays no regard to fact or truth.”

Amen.

Chrys Stevenson

If you’re in NSW and you like this article, you might like to send the link to your local MLC.

* Richard Mills, President of Dying with Dignity NSW has subsequently located the article referred to by Dr Lennon. It is, in fact, from the Journal of General Internal Medicine (not Geriatric Medicine as stated by Dr Lennon).  It is by Linda Ganzini et al., and the link is “Why Oregon Patients Request Assisted Death: Family Members’ Views”.

That link provides only the summary – but even the summary shows how Ms Lennon cherry-picks information from articles, failing to mention the parts which don’t support her argument. As noted above, it’s important to remember PAD (patient assisted dying) is only available to patients who are terminally ill with less than six months to live.

“According to family members, the most important reasons that their loved ones requested PAD, all with a median score of 4.5 or greater, were wanting to control the circumstances of death and die at home, and worries about loss of dignity and future losses of independence, quality of life, and self-care ability. No physical symptoms at the time of the request were rated higher than a median of 2 in importance. Worries about symptoms and experiences in the future were, in general, more important reasons than symptoms or experiences at the time of the request. According to family members, the least important reasons their loved ones requested PAD included depression, financial concerns, and poor social support.”

Related Posts

Doctors for the Family’s hidden religious agenda

Doctors for the Family – debunked

I call ‘bullshit’ Mr Wallace – Doctors for the Family

Activist dead wrong on voluntary euthanasia (with Dr David Leaf)

The debate on assisted dying: distortion, misinformation and the influence of the religious lobby (speech)

Safe Laws on assisted dying are working worldwide – Dr David Leaf, British Medical Journal

Voluntary euthanasia and the religious right – Dr Jennifer Wilson, No Place for Sheep

_DSC9327Chrys Stevenson BA (Hons I),  is a Queensland-based freelance writer, blogger, speaker, researcher, historian and social activist.  Chrys graduated from Griffith University in the late 1990s and was the recipient of the University Medal for Academic Excellence.

Chrys contributed the first chapter on the history of Australian atheism to Warren Bonnet’s (2010) The Australian Book of Atheism. Since then, she has been published widely in various online journals.

Chrys was the keynote speaker at Dying with Dignity’s NSW 2010 AGM and Conference and, together with Dr Leaf, has written previously about the religious debate on voluntary euthanasia.

Chrys is the convenor of the Sunshine Coast Atheists.

She helped nurse her grandmother through Alzheimer’s and is now a carer for her 89 year old mother who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Chrys will be appearing at the Reality Bites Literary Festival in Cooroy on the Sunshine Coast at the end of July.

A Smidgen of Sophists – World Congress of Families, Sydney 2013

As a young woman, I felt strongly that, should I have an unplanned pregnancy, I would not want to have an abortion.

But then the day came when, duped by a man who told me he was sterile, I agreed to unprotected sex when I was not on the pill. The next day this wicked Welsh charmer blithely told me he’d ‘made up’ the part about being sterile.

I fell into a panic. The very last thing I wanted was to be pregnant to this bastard who’d so easily lied to get into my pants! Sure, I’d been stupid, but should I really have to pay for that moment of stupidity for the rest of my life?

I visited the Family Planning Clinic and they gave me a ‘morning after’ pill. I’m not even sure if it was legal then, but they gave it to me. The relief was overwhelming.

Fortunately – more by good luck than good planning – I was never in the position of needing to have an abortion. But, this incident clarified my position in the pro-life, pro-choice debate. I realised you really don’t know how you’re going to feel about an unwanted pregnancy until you’re faced with it. When it’s a purely academic question, you might think you would never have an abortion, but the truth might be quite different when you’re faced with the reality of an unwanted pregnancy.

I came to the view that, regardless of what my personal choice  might be, I couldn’t know in what circumstances other women might be making their decisions. Whether or not I’d choose an abortion for myself was immaterial. It was a woman’s right to make her own decision – ideally in consultation with  a doctor whose only interest was what was best for their patient. I became pro-choice.

So, I was delighted this week when a friend put me in touch with David Nolan, director of communications for the Washington-based, Catholics for Choice. I am always happy to work with and promote the efforts of religious organisations which challenge the antediluvian views of their fundamentalist frères.

According to their website, Catholics for Choice:

“… was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”

With a not-inconsiderable budget of $3 million per year, Catholics for Choice imagines a world:

  • Where all women and men are trusted to make moral decisions about their lives.
  • Where the decision to start a family is thoughtful and planned.
  • Where policy makers and advocates are free to support policies that create a more just and compassionate society.
  • Where life-saving health interventions aren’t blocked by sectarian interests.
  • Where abortion is safe, legal and truly accessible, and both contraception and child care are available and affordable.

Instead, they argue, we live in a world:

  • Where abortion remains illegal or unavailable for millions of women around the world, even when it could save their lives.
  • Where a woman who needs emergency contraception at a hospital or pharmacy is denied because of the religious beliefs of the pharmacist behind the counter, or the nurse in the emergency room.
  • Where policy makers are ostracized in their churches and harassed by their clergy because of their support for sex education or reproductive healthcare for poor women.
  • Where a rape survivor in a war torn country can be told by the Vatican that she must continue the pregnancy that resulted from her attack.
  • Where more than 40 million people live with HIV and AIDS while the Vatican lobbies against the use of condoms.

“In all parts of the world,” says Catholics for Choice, “women, men and their families suffer because they lack the resources to plan their families, and the comprehensive information and education to keep themselves safe and healthy.”

Moreover:

The Catholic hierarchy’s powerful lobby plays a huge role in influencing public policy and affects everyone  Catholic or not  by limiting the availability of reproductive healthcare services worldwide.”

Meanwhile:

The Catholic hierarchy’s ban on contraception and abortion has a disastrous impact on women’s lives, especially the lives of poor women who may rely solely on government-run programs for access to reproductive healthcare services.”

Unlike Mother Church, Catholics for Choice recognise that:

“It is women and their families who pay the price every time theocracy trumps democracy in the debate over women’s healthcare.”

Hear! Hear! This is a theme I’ll be returning to in my next blog post about Catholic dogma and medicine in Australia.

Currently, the World Congress of Families is being held in Sydney and Catholics for Choice has a number of delegates attending and reporting back on the disinformation and propaganda being perpetuated as part of this fundamentalist talk-fest.

leaveittobeaveronlineYou see, the World Congress of Families hasn’t been convened to support all families – just the ones who fit with their closed-minded, fundamentalist Christian/orthodox Catholic view of what a ‘natural’ family is. Theirs is a “Leave it to Beaver” concept of the family; a concept which, to be frank, the rest of us discarded along with Leave it to Beaver reruns, back in the 70s.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics attests, not only does the “Leave it to Beaver” family no longer exist – it never existed. It is an idealised, sentimental, entirely fictional, utopian view of family life which suppresses the dysfunction which is, too often,  a hidden feature of the much vaunted nuclear, patriarchal, ‘traditional’ family.

If your family consists of two mums or two dads, a single mum or dad, one or more step- or adoptive parents, or even, perhaps, a family with two dads and two mums yours is not the kind of family the World Congress of Families want to protect – although they certainly have a unhealthy interest in discussing how very bad you are for your kids!

What the World Congress of Families is really about is finding ways to  impose its own narrow, religious view about what a family is on the rest of society. A big clue about that agenda  is that day one of the proceedings included a Greeting to WCF VII from the Vatican, followed by a few words from Archbishop Paglia (speaking via video), on behalf of the Pontifical Council on the Family.

This is not a kumbaya, everyone is beautiful, celebrate diversity kinda gig! It’s a pursed lip, tut-tut, ‘it would never have done for the Bishop – it would never have done for His Grace’ kind of affair.

Looking through the program, there’s a host of the ‘usual suspects’ whose mission in life is to impose their religious doctrine upon those of us who don’t share it: Bill Muehlenberg (sigh!), Angela Shanahan (groan!), Miranda Devine (*eye roll*), David van Gend (unprintable!), Miriam Grossman (unspeakable!), Nicholas Tonti-Filippini (flippin’ heck!), Mary-Louise Fowler (conference chair and also head of the Australian Family Association), Peter Westmore and Pat Byrne (president and vice-president of the National Civic Council – ’nuff said!)  … and so on, ad nauseum.

MissionaryIf you put ’em all in a pot, melted ’em down ( missionary style!), drained off the contam-inated water and served up the rest, you’d have a nice big bowl of unadulterated bigotry, balderdash and bile; the three major food groups for would-be religious zealots.

What is heartening is that the vast majority of Christians don’t agree with the bullshit being cast about with gay abandon at the WCF.

For example:

Not to put too fine a point on it, despite it’s rather grand sounding name, the World Congress of Families is a neighbourhood meeting for a fringe group of religious fundamentalist bigots and theocrats; people who hold an extreme minority view on issues relating to the family and who want to impose that view, through policy, on the rest of us.

So, it’s wonderful that Catholics for Choice are there taking notes and holding their feet to the fire.

Catholics for Choice describe the World Congress of Families as a ‘festival of verbal and logical hijinks’ and their reports on the hijinks are highly entertaining.

The Introductory Report  suggests that, even amongst its followers, the World Congress for Families has gone off  with all the force of a (rather pathetically organised) damp squib:

“The 2013 World Congress of Families (WCF) kicked off in Sydney a few hours ago to little effect, even among its own. Hours after the opening ceremony welcomed attendees, neither the website, the Twitter feed nor the Facebook page mentioned great speeches, rousing applause or magnificent crowds. In fact, each still had the conference as starting in the future and was holding out hope for more registrants, with the long-extended early bird price open to every bird.”

According to Catholics for Choice:

“Australian columnist Phil Scott, writing for Gay News Network, has provided the best description so far of the organizers: “This organisation hails from Rockford, Illinois, courtesy of the Howard Centre for Family, Religion and Junk Mail. They believe in the ‘natural family’ (heterosexual variety) and promote reparation therapy for homosexuals. Reparation comes from the verb ‘to repair.’ Did you guys know you were broken? Funny, neither did I. Guess it depends on your perspective.”

But it seems likely that all that good advice on how to force women to have children they don’t want and how to turn gay people straight has not found a large, receptive audience in Sydney. Catholics for Choice note the rising desperation in the tone of the Congress’s correspondence as the opening day drew closer:

“The World Congress of Families 7 Sydney is almost upon us and as you COUNT DOWN the days to the Congress, the Organising Committee is COUNTING UP the participants—we need your help….[We] would like to see double the number of delegates registered … to know that this Congress is on track.”

GAC CrowdFunny, we didn’t have that kind of problem with the Global Atheist Convention – we filled the enormous space of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It was wall to wall heathens!

Catholics for Choice report on Day One of the proceedings is now published, and subsequent reports will be up on their website soon.  Apparently, the Sydney WCF has attracted – wait for it – around 250 delegates.  With 84 keynote and invited speakers on the program, that’s a ratio (at best) of about 3 audience members per speaker. (Chrys suppresses an almost uncontrollable urge to let loose with a loud, manical laugh):

When I was working in the theatre we used to refer to this kind of pathetically small turnout as an ‘audient’ – too small to be referred to with the collective noun, ‘audience’.

Still, you’d expect those who did attend to be enthusiastically in favour of speakers who barrack for the ‘natural’ (aka heterosexual) family. But, says Catholics for Choice, the speeches are getting less than a luke-warm reception.  For example, Australian Bishop, Peter Elliot’s, “celebration of the family, used as a justification for keeping the status quo ante on all issues of marriage and sexuality, was not met with the enthusiastic reception one would expect from the family’s staunchest protectors. Instead, we had silence.”

According to the Catholics for Choice spies observers:

“Throughout the day various forms of tortured reasoning, often the hallmark of conservative politics, were in evidence. They included the mistaking of correlation for causation; fallacious appeals to nature (sometimes known as the “is-ought” problem); selective empiricism; and the “best defense is offense” tactic of ascribing one’s own moral failings to others.

Time and time again, speakers would contend that the very existence of the family constellation with which they are most comfortable was proof that this type of family was both inevitable and morally correct.”

Commenting on the speakers’ contortions as they tried to ram ‘square-peg’ academic research into ideological round holes (ooh, that sounds slightly salacious doesn’t it?) Catholics for Choice report on ‘appalling breaches of academic rigor and honesty’ and “data” produced by ideologically driven research which ‘mistakes moral rigidity for scientific rigor’. Why am I not surprised?

The whole thing sounds rather sad and underwhelming. The problem is, apparently, that even those who are attending this sorry symposium realise their defence of the ‘natural family’ simply isn’t gaining traction; not in society nor even with their fellow Christians. They are ideological outliers – a rapidly diminishing population of social pariahs. An iota of extremists. A morsel of monomaniacs. A pinch of puritans. A tiddy-bit of traditionalists. A zero-population of zealots.  A smidgen of sophists.

As Catholics for Choice insightfully conclude:

“Once the door closes with a bang on all the groups who aren’t ‘our sort of people’, you’re left shut in with only people like yourself to talk to, and what is there to say?

If today was any indication, there’s a lot of silence and not much substance.”

If you’d like to be kept up to date on the World Congress of Families Sydney, 2013, email djnolan at catholicsforchoice dot org and ask to be put on their WCF mailing list. I know they’d like to spread the word.

Chrys Stevenson

Due Credit to Deveny’s Detractors

deveny 1That Deveny woman’s been at it again!

This time she’s been bagging ANZAC Day. The hide of the woman! In a series of tweets on 25 April, Catherine Deveny wrote:

“Anzac Day. A celebration of a society so fucked up it saw no other option than to go to war. Kill, rape and invade. Then glorify it.

“The ‘spirit of ANZAC’ does not define our nation. It’s our peaceful secular democracy rooted in workers rights, feminism & multiculturalism.

“Read your history. No war Australia has ever fought has resulted in our ‘freedom’ or ‘opportunities’.

“Days like #anzacday are simply a rewriting of history to stop the sucked in and ripped off burning down parliament and killing politicians.

“Not the day for it? The only day for it. Show respect? That’s exactly what I’m doing.

“It’s very clear Japan had no intention of invading Australia. The persistance (sic) of this myth is amazing/alarming/convenient.”

I’ve written here about why I didn’t put the boot into Deveny. But, many others disagreed with her in the strongest possible terms, as is their right.

What concerns me is that those brave, true-blue, hand-on-the-heart Aussies who tore into Catherine (for pointing out what others think is nothing more than the bleeding obvious) have not been given due credit for their insightful arguments, their compelling defence of the ANZAC tradition, their use of evidence, or their patient and persuasive polemic on why a view held, not only by Deveny, but also by many veterans, should be taboo. It’s a crying shame, really.

It seems to me that those people who took on Deveny should really get their moment in the spotlight. Their ANZAC Day efforts should appear whenever a prospective partner or employer happens to Google their name. After all, they must be so very proud, defending their country and all. It hardly seems fair that they should just fade into oblivion after taking all that time finding pithy adjectives to throw at a hard-working woman and mother who just happens to have a different take on ANZAC Day to them. I tossed and turned all last night just thinking about the injustice of it all.

So, here in my little corner of the blogosphere, I’m happy to shine a light on Deveny’s critics; happy to use my network to make them a lot better known. And, with a little bit of nifty internet research, I’m delighted to say, if you read on, you can get to know these Aussie heroes better. Perhaps you’ll even recognise one or two of them. Catherine tells me she’s already getting lots of emails from people saying, “Oh my God! I know that person!” And boy, do they deserve the recognition! So, here goes:

Richo Richman aka Richard Heath

Richman CommentAs you can see, Richo has a real way with words. That’s why he’s such a hugely successful comedian. Really! Just google him and you’ll see all the gigs he’s done and where he’s gigging next. Well, maybe not. It seems Richo’s comedic talent is largely undiscovered – or, perhaps, undiscoverable.

Apparently Richo was educated at Timbertop school. Maybe that’s where he learned all those big words. Timbertop must be so proud.

Still, comedian and radio personality Meshel Laurie seems to appreciate his style. Perhaps we’ll see Richo performing the warm up for Meshel’s next show, eh?

Ignibus Ignes

Ignibus CommentAww, shucks. I wasn’t able to find Ignibus Ignes’ real name but I’m sure hoping someone will recognise him or her. Ignibus (not to be confused with Ignorant) is a dyed in the wool Liberal supporter.

Almost as cranky with the Greens and Labor as he/she is with Deveny, Ignibus (proudly incognito) boasts the photo of a cockpit of a superhornet as his/her icon. An RAAF connection there? Or simply Walter Mitty wishful thinking?

Come on, Ignibus – don’t be shy! Tell us who you are. After all, your nemesis, Catherine, is at least ‘man’ enough to make her statements under her real name. I’m sure your anonymity is an oversight.

Mick Thom

Thom Comment 1Thom Comment 2Mick (aka Michael) Thom is a St Bernard’s College old boy. Ah, those Catholic schools, they really know how to produce fine, upstanding Australian citizens, don’t they? Tony Abbott, George Pell and now, Michael Thom! I wonder if Mick has political aspirations. I sure hope I can give him a little more exposure!

Michael’s an athletic sort and still close to his old alma mater. He’s the Vice President of St Bernard’s Old Collegian’s Cricket Club and their 2nd XI Captain – for now, at least.

If you want to join Michael Thom’s fan club you can find him on Twitter: @mickthom10

Russell (Mad Dog) Hutchison

Hutchison commentRussell Nelson Hutchison (aka Mad Dog) is a Vietnam vet and avid beer can collector from Vincent, Townsville. Russell served as a tactical operator on HMAS Sydney and HMAS Stuart between 1965 and 1968, back in the day when women were scarce aboard naval ships; perhaps just as well.

Maybe we should introduce Russell to Gracie Grace who believes that Australian soldiers are unique among the world’s armies in their categorical rejection of violence against women.

Grace commentAfter all, as Russell so forcefully argues, a good raping is perfectly acceptable providing the woman deserves it.

Dean “Trash” Willis

willis comment 1Dean Willis is another one of those unassuming critics who hides his light under a bushel. Not one to push his real name into the limelight, Willis prefers to ‘trash’ people under his trashy pseudonym. He also goes by the name of Deany_yo on Instagram. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the extra traffic.

Hailing from Australia’s east coast, it seems congratulations are due to Mr Willis and his wife Melissa. They’ve just had twin boys.

Trash Willis

Oh, what lessons he can teach them on how to engage in respectful debate and how to speak to women. Lucky, lucky boys – and lucky Melissa to have such a gem for a husband.

Brendan Brookman

Brookman commentBrendan Teejay Brookman (click to see his smiling face) is a Townsville based soldier with the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Brookman was deployed in East Timor from 2009 to 2010. It appears his passion is now to defend the internetz against womenz like Deveny. And what a fine job he is doing!

The army must be bursting with pride to have Brendan showing the world’s netizens just what fine men our modern Australian army is producing.

Poor old Gracie Grace (above) must be having heart flutters at the idea that one of our brave boys could suggest that the way to deal with Melbourne comedians who don’t agree with him is to line them up in front of a firing squad. Australian soldiers would never think such a thing, would they Gracie?

Grahame Hopewell

hopewell comment

Our next proud patriot, Grahame Hopewell, resides on the south side of Brisbane. He’s the father of three, including a daughter. You wonder if a ‘rifle butt to the face’ is Mr Hopewell’s standard method of discipline, or whether it’s a punishment reserved for women who get above their station.

Grahame, we’re sure you’re right in asserting your arsehole is prettier than Deveny, but I’m curious. Just how much time a day do you spend looking at your arsehole as opposed to talking out of it?

Ari Hinchco

Hinchco comment

If there’s one thing Deveny did right on ANZAC Day, it was to give the stalwarts of that proud tradition an excuse to show us just what kind of people they are.

Take Ari Hinchco (Please! Take Ari Hinchco! – boom-tish). Originally from Herefordshire, Ari was in the Royal New Zealand Navy. He posts as @freelancer17235 on Twitter.

Ari is a veterans’ advocate and I think we can all applaud him for that. I come from a military family and I know how appallingly successive governments treat our veterans and how important it is for our veterans to have good advocates.

I guess it’s a good thing that advocates should be particular about where they put their penises (God knows Catholic priests aren’t so particular!) And, I think we should give props to Ari for the creative idea of turning our Dev into a dartboard. As his old mates at the ex RNZN Navy Club say, Ari has ‘never been one to hold back’.

It just makes you wonder whether that applies to all his endeavours, doesn’t it?

Eliah Sutton

sutton commentEliah James Sutton is a personal favourite of mine. An alumni of Mountain Creek State High School at the Sunshine Coast, but now resident in Darwin (presumably in the army), Eliah used to post as Shmeelsy on Myspace. Here Eliah tells us ‘you gotta ask your self is this where you wanna be when jesus comes back … sitting on your ass feeling sorry for your self’.

Clearly a good Christian boy, Eliah also fills us in on what he’s looking for in a woman: “Chicks with brains and high sex drives … brains don’t really matter …” Perfect. An ideal candidate for home-schooling his children.

eliah sutton 2

… clearly, Catherine, losing a few IQ points might help if you want to endear yourself to Mr Sutton.

On Facebook, Eliah was keen to get his friends to join the Catherine Deveny feeding frenzy.

eliah sutton

And even emailed Catherine direct, just to make sure she got the message:

sutton comment 2

Nick Shackcloth

shackcloth commentNick Shackcloth is also from Darwin and planning to join the Australian Defence Force in August this year. I bet they’re champing at the bit to have Nick join the forces and bring a bit of class to the military.

Encouraging women to commit suicide by plunging off the top of high buildings is certainly a more modern twist on chivalry than escorting little old ladies across the road. (Still, being a lollipop lady for octogenarians might be a tad dangerous given that Nick spends so much time texting from his Sony Xperia (TM) smartphone.)

Nick was educated at Coolum State High School at the Sunshine Coast – I’ll bet he’s on their honours board.

Graeme Hopkinson

hopkinson comment 1hopkinson comment 2Graeme Hopkinson (posting as @churchurchur on Twitter) is a 46 year old charmer from Queensland. Click if you dare, girls, but have a bottle of smelling salts at the ready! We don’t want you swooning in a sudden attack of ‘the vapors’!

Graeme, dear, if your wife ever leaves you, you must use this as your RSVP pic!

Originally from New Zealand, Graeme now lives on the Gold Coast where he spends his time, selflessly encouraging people who don’t agree with him to top themselves. Clearly, disagreeing with Graeme must be so painful that death would surely be preferable!

Graeme Hopkinson

Not one to cave to political correctness, Graeme is happy to castigate girlfriend beater, Chris Brown, for being a ‘dumb nigger’ while feeling totally comfortable hurling verbal abuse at Ms Deveny because that’s … um …. different.

You have to love a man who can keep two totally conflicting ethical viewpoints in his head at the one time.

I bet Graeme would be good at juggling too – if only he could find some balls.

Olivia Smith

Lest I be accused of bathing the men in glory while ignoring the ‘fairer sex’, it’s important to note that most, but not all of Deveny’s critics were men. There were some lovely ladies laying in to her as well.

Take the glamorous would-be make-up-guru-to-the-stars, Olivia Smith, posting as @OliviaMae13 on Twitter.

smith comment

And, you know what they say! ‘Bogan is the new black!’

————-

So there it is – it’s not a complete run-down of all those who threatened Deveny with rape, suggested she should kill herself, or simply took the time to tell her how ugly she is – but it’s the best I could do in a day. I’m sorry to all those people I didn’t get a chance to spotlight. Maybe next time.

qualityAnd, I can’t complete this post without a special shout out to those fabulous people at the Quality Hotel Mildura Grand who, after hearing of Catherine’s tweets, decided to cancel the booking she’d made at their property for the duration of her Curvy Crumpet show in Mildura.

Apparently, it’s a new policy being tried out – guests’ political and social opinions must conform with management’s before a booking can be honoured.

What’s next, party political hotels? The Quality Hotel Mildura LNP Grand? The Tullamarine Airport Greens Hotel? The Laverton Labor Inn?

Those clever bunnies at Quality are set to revolutionise the hotel industry! Just watch! Next we can segregate based on religion and race too. What fun!

And, what fun ‘Defending Deveny’ again. She certainly keeps me busy! Buzz me Deveny, this is turning into a full time job! We gotta talk about commission rates!

Chrys Stevenson

PS: If you want to see both Deveny and me (preferably not for the purpose of topping us, raping us, or encouraging us to plunge from high buildings) we’ll both be appearing at the Reality Bites Literary Festival in Cooroy, Sunshine Coast, Queensland from the 25-28 July. More details here.

Update – Friday 17 May 2013:

Peter

Yesterday, a man called Peter sent through just the sort of comment I’ve been waiting for. YouI would have thought this post gave fair warning about what I planned to do to people who sent through gendered and abusive comments!

“Too good to spam!” I thought and promptly googled Peter’s details, aided by the email address attached to his comment. I subsequently published those details here.

“Oh, Peter!” I wrote, “Such a very poor business decision.”  I pondered how many of his customers would remain after learning how he speaks to women on the internet. Here is Peter’s comment:

“fck you moron my grandfather getting wounded Darwin was lie,get your fck head out of your ass smell the rose’s what about broome( lots of aboriginals got wounded and killed so that lie to are you racist to now, it ather parts western australia were bomb to so was thats lie to , were where your fck uneducated parent’s from,maybe just maybe they where hiding behind bong,so that why your drug fcked whore, look in the mirror ,your the joke you idiot, my grandfathers never did what you say happen, how fck do you know what they did you read it somewhere plz O plz give us book, your not only unaustralian but it think your racist you have branded not only white aussie’s and aboriginals who have served this country as well you know what wrote,”

I pointed out, for the record, that I would not have publicly revealed Peter’s full name, email, town, business name and connection with a Christian school  if he had written something along the lines of the following:

“I disagree with Catherine Deveny’s views on ANZAC day. My grandfather was wounded in Darwin during World War II, I am very proud of his service,  and ANZAC Day means a lot to me and my family. Is Ms Deveny aware that many Aborigines were also wounded and killed in the wars Australia has been involved in? Aborigines are given so little recognition in this country.  Isn’t it right that we should commemorate their military service?

Yes, terrible things happen in wartime but I think most Australian soldiers simply ‘did their bit’. I’m sure my grandfathers were never involved in anything untoward, so why shouldn’t we take some time on ANZAC Day to honour them? I worry that views like Ms Deveny’s are disrespectful to many people whose families served our country – including our Indigenous population. Perhaps Ms Deveny should think a little more carefully before voicing criticisms next time.”

My point is that this blog post as not ‘outed’ people for disagreeing with Deveny – but for the way they did it.

To his credit, Peter has since posted what I believe to be a sincere apology:

“i wish to make this public, LADYs and Gentlemen im very sorry for my language and the way talk about women in general today i was outline, i have never talked like that in my life,unless its to your face without the swearing, im very sorry as i have PTSD and the med plays hell on my mind but that not way i shouldn’t talk or say anything about or anyone even if i dont like what they say thankyou chrys for pulling me up i was out of line.”

As the aim of this blog was to make people reflect on the wisdom and consequences of abusing women online (and elsewhere) I think the appropriate response is to accept Peter’s apology, remove identifying details from this blog post and hope he has learned a lesson.

Related Posts

The Anzac Spirit. Top 100 Hate Comments – Catherine Deveny

Misogyny Justified by Defence of ANZAC Day? (The War On Catherine Deveny) – The Antibogan

Are Australians militaristic fascists now, too? – PZ Myers, Pharyngula

Reality Bites Non-Fiction Literary Festival

From 25-28 July, I’ll be at the Reality Bites non-fiction literary festival at Cooroy on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. I’d love you to join me there and I’ve negotiated early access to discounted tickets for my readers.

Here’s a sneak preview of the Festival Program

My sessions are:

Chrys BlueLittle tales of misogyny – 10am-11am, Sunday, 28 July, Cooroy Library ($15 or buy Festival Pass)

At Reality Bites I’ll be moderating a panel discussion on misogyny with Tanya Levin, prominent Australian feminist, Professor Ann Summers and Jeff Sparrow, left wing writer, social activist and author of several books including his latest, Money Shot: A Journey into Porn and Censorship. 

Conversation: Hillsong to Hard Time – 2pm – 3pm, Sunday 28 July, Cooroy Library ($15 or buy Festival Pass)

Later on Sunday afternoon, I’ll also be interviewing my dear friend, Tanya Levin, about her two non-fiction books: People in Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story of a Life In and Out of Hillsong and Crimwife: An Insider’s Account of Love behind Bars.

Workshop: Citizen Journalism – 12pm-3pm, Friday 26 July, Cooroy Library ($90 or buy a workshop package – see below)

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve put my hand up to host a workshop on citizen journalism. I’ll talk about the history and successes of citizen journalism and, in ‘real time’ I’ll show participants  how to start their own blog, I’ll discuss what makes a good blog post or online article, we’ll look at some different styles and genres, and I’ll give tips on getting your work published and using social media to maximise your audience. Participants will discuss what they’re passionate about, how they’d like to change the world, consider what makes them ‘unique’ and work on creating their own post to publish ‘live’ on a blog we’ll create together.  Importantly, we’ll also pay some attention to the responsibilities of being a citizen journalist, including tips on research, honesty in reporting, sorting out opinions from facts, fact checking, assessing the weight of evidence and linking to source material.  The workshop will be 3 hours and I’m hoping we’ll all have a lot of fun.

While I’m going to be immensely busy at Reality Bites, surprisingly, I’m not the ‘star turn’. 😉

The line-up is incredible and includes:

DevCatherine Deveny – Comedian, social commentator, television celebrity and l’enfant terrible, Catherine Deveny, will appear at a special event at the historic Majestic Theatre, Pomona on Friday evening, 26 July.

Dev plans to give us 10 easy lessons on how to Destroy the Joint (harking back to radio jock, Alan Jones’ famous complaint that Australian women are ‘destroying the joint’). Dev is riveting on stage and you just never know what she’s going to say next! You’ll be shocked, you’ll be entertained, you’ll be riveted, but most of all, you’ll be in awe of her energy, talent and passion. Don’t miss it. Really. Don’t. Miss. It.

Dev will also join the Destroying the Joint panel discussion hosted by festival organiser, Melanie Myers from 12.30pm-1.30pm on Saturday, 27 July at the Cooroy Library.

Alesa Lajana – Joining Catherine at the ‘Majestic’ event is the remarkable Alesa Lajana. Most recently, Alesa has been collecting stories to transform into songs of our shared black and white history. Alesa will  sing of hope, love and regret in a voice that will take your breath away.

As a special offer to my readers, you can purchase individual tickets (i.e. not part of a package) for the Majestic event for $35 (full price $40) until 11 May. If you can get together a group of six or more and pay together, we can do a little better. To take up this offer, contact Annette Hughes at (07) 5447 7063 and mention my name.

Mark Dapin – Mark is an award-winning author and highly experienced journalist whose latest book, Spirit House, was short-listed for the Miles Franklin award. Spirit House tells the story of Jimmy Reubens once a POW on the Thai-Burma Railway, but now the grandfather of a 13 year old grandson who helps him lay his ghosts to rest.

Chris SarraChris Sarra – Chris, Queensland’s ‘Australian of the Year’ in 2004, made his mark as the highly innovative principal of Cherbourg State School. His book, Good Morning, Mr Sarra tells of Chris’ fight to implement his ‘strong and smart’ philosophy into Cherbourg and, more broadly, to ensure that Aboriginal children ‘no longer hope for a better education; they can expect it.’ Chris will give the Festival Address at the Festival Launch on Thursday evening, 25 July at Cooroy Library.

Kristy Chambers, nurse and author of the hilarious Get Well Soon! My (Un)Brilliant Career as a Nurse  – (Kristy will be interviewed during a High Tea by my mad mate Vicki O’Brien whose own (un)brilliant career in nursing lasted less than an hour. It should be an hilarious event!)

Michelle Law – Michelle, sister of Benjamin Law, is an AWGIE award winning screenwriter  and a successful author in her own right. Recently, along with Catherine Deveny and a slew of other remarkable Australian women, Michelle was a contributor to Jane Caro’s Destroying the Joint: Why women have to change the world.

Matthew Condon – I once had morning tea with Sir Terence Lewis, just before the launch of the Fitzgerald Inquiry. I remember taking a perverse pleasure in asking him if he’d noticed the brothel just down the road from our meeting venue. Matthew Condon’s latest book, Three Crooked Kings, is the first of two explosive investigative accounts about former Queensland police commissioner Terry Lewis, and crime and corruption in Queensland and NSW over a half-century. Matthew is a prize-winning Australian author and journalist.

This is just a taste. Other writers appearing at the festival can be found here.

Special Offer for My Readers

Reality Bites is a terrific, intimate festival where you can really get up close and personal with the writers. I’d love my readers to come along and enjoy it as much as I have over the last three years. I’ve done some fast talking and some wrenching of hands behind backs and persuaded the organisers to open their ‘subscribers only’ offer to you.

As my readers, for a very short time (until 11 May), you have access to early bird, discounted ‘packaged’ tickets for the event before the tickets go on sale to the public. This means you can get in early for the popular sessions before they sell out.

Reality Logo

your personal invitation
reality bites festival ticket deals

Your chance to buy tickets before they go on sale to the public on 11 May
Early Bird Discounts available until 1 July
Buy Now

Secure your place to hear this year’s line up of visiting authors including:

Anne Summers   Catherine Deveny   Mark Dapin   Matthew Condon   Jim Hearn   Mary-Lou Stephens and many many more.

Take advantage of our package deals :

READER’S PACKAGE: SAVE $35 –  Reader’s Package Discount Price $130:
includes a Weekend Pass plus entry to the Festival Launch with Chris Sarra and Majestic Event featuring Catherine Deveny and Alesa Lajana at the fabulous Majestic Theatre.

(Includes festival launch, Majestic event, entry to main stage, conversation and close up sessions – but workshops not included).

WRITER’S PACKAGE: Immerse yourself in your craft.
SAVE $40 on a  Workshop 4-Pack  –  Discount Price $320: access to4 Workshops  (other sessions not included)
SAVE $35 on a Writer’s Package – Discount Price $200:  includes your choice of 2 Workshops and 2 Close Up Sessions. (other sessions not included). Only 25 tickets per workshop; these sell out quickly.

AFTERNOON TEA @ Tea-licious with Kristy Chambers and the effervescent Vicki O’Brien. Book early – will sell out! – $25 (not included in weekend or other packages). Only 35 tickets available

Confused? If you’re interested in attending for the whole long weekend and want to get a taste of all the festival has to offer, I’d recommend buying a Reader’s Package, then adding on a workshop and the afternoon tea event. Total cost would be: Package – $130; Workshop – $90; Afternoon Tea – $25; TOTAL: $245

Individual tickets go on sale on 11 May. A weekend pass is $90. That will give you access to the main stage, close up and conversation events but not to any workshops, the launch (with Chris Sarra), or the Majestic event (with Catherine Deveny). You can buy these separately and add on to your weekend pass, but check to see if a package would be more economical.

If you just want to pick and choose, and, perhaps, can’t make it for the whole weekend, you can attend individual main stage and close-up sessions for $15 each.

My 3 hour workshop is $90 if you don’t buy a package that includes workshops.

Buy Now
CHECK OUT THE PROGRAM FOR DETAILS
Individual tickets go on public sale 11 May
 

Let’s talk about bums

bumsI had a lucky escape during the last few months. I went into hospital for a routine procedure and came out feeling remarkably well. I’d had a raft of tests in the lead up to the operation and, apart from a humongously large fibroid, everything seemed to be as it should be.

A few days after the operation a resident from the hospital called. In a stammering voice he said, “Ummm, I’ve just been going through your pathology report and, ummm, errrr, well … it’s Friday and I thought you should know that …. ummm, the pathology found a malignant tumour. We’re all pretty shocked here. There were no indications prior to your surgery and we’re pretty sure we took it all out but … ummm, we’re going to have to get you back to check because … errr, we didn’t know it was there.”

Long story short, I went in for another surgery to have more bits removed and I’ve now been pretty much cleared. I’m incredibly lucky. There was no indication that I had cancer, i had no symptoms, and if I hadn’t, coincidentally, had to have an operation for something different (but in the same location) I may not have known until it was too late.

Now, tests missed my cancer but, generally, they’re pretty good at picking them up. I make sure to have regular mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies. The former two are made easier because they are covered by Medicare. The colonoscopy costs a bloody fortune but then, I weigh up, “A couple of hundred bucks versus bowel cancer” and somehow the “couple of hundred bucks” seems rather less important. I’m lucky I have the money. I’m sure there are many who don’t have vital tests because they simply can’t afford them.

Which brings me to the subject of this post – bums –  anuses to be precise. Icky for some, lovely for others but, we’ve all got one and like all of our other ‘bits’ they’re prone to cancer too.

My friend, Rod Swift of Melbourne’s gay and lesbian radio station, Joy 94.9 FM, tells me that while the Australian government provides Medicare funding for women to have pap smears to guard against cervical cancer (caused by the human papillomavirus – HPV) they don’t fund anal smears for men or women who have anal sex to protect against anal cancer (caused by the same virus).

This makes no sense. As Rod says, “Alarmingly, the rate of cancer among gay men is even higher than the rates of cervical cancer among women.”

I find this shocking – particularly as my own, very recent, personal experience shows, early detection of cancer is critical.

Rod has started a petition asking Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek to add anal pap smears for HPV to the Medicare Benefits Schedule and to promote their availablilty and necessity to men who have sex with men – the highest risk group.

In addition, says Rod, the Federal Government should fund a catch-up program for males to get the Gardasil vaccination which protects against contracting HPV. I had the great good fortune to meet and chat with Professor Ian Frazer, the developer of the Gardasil vaccine, at an event at Embiggen Books when the shop was still up here in the ‘deep north’. Frazer is passionate about making the Gardasil vaccine widely available and, here in Australia, it is now available to both teenage girls and boys. That’s a great initiative, but every effort needs to be made to broaden protection for the gay/men who have sex with men community in general.

At a time when we are so actively fighting for marriage equality, surely it’s only fair that the government provide health equality as well.

You can help by signing Rod’s petition. I have.

Chrys Stevenson