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Between 1966–1987, a clinical trial led by O&G specialist Dr Herbert Green was undertaken at National Women’s Hospital in Auckland. Green theorised that carcinoma in situ identified in cervical smears was unrelated to cervical cancer. Many women had no knowledge they were part of the study, many did not consent to their involvement and as a result of the study, some woman developed cervical cancer and a number of women died. A ministerial inquiry investigated the study and consequently found other unethical practices at National Women’s.

As a result of the Cartwright Inquiry, a number of recommendations were made (and implemented) that changed medical practice and medical education in NZ forever.

Over the past decade, the literature has published a number of studies highlighting the use of patients (both male and female) as learning tools for medical students – often without the patient’s knowledge or consent. University of Auckland senior medical students consistently report being asked to observe or perform sensitive examinations on both conscious and unconscious patients, without their consent, in the clinical environment.

In my talk I’ll provide further context to the issue of consent in this particular context. I’ll reflect on changes made to medical education as a result of the Cartwright Inquiry, what’s currently happening, and where I believe we need to focus our attention going forward.