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Health Insight March 2002: Health in the news


As the budget draws closer the chancellor Gordon Brown has been getting a grilling by the UK media. He admits that to meet patient needs the NHS must have the lion’s share of public money. Will it be tax rises or increased health insurance? (see ‘Our "world class" healthcare system’).

Last month saw some sad cases grabbing the headlines. Two women – Diane Pretty, who is terminally ill, and an unnamed woman paralysed from the neck down – have sought legal help to let them end their lives (see ‘Right-to-die cases’). A hospital in Newcastle took the parents of a small baby to court to enable them to treat her as they saw appropriate (see ‘Baby in medical legal battle’); and seven women are taking three large pharmaceutical companies to the High Court over the devastating effects they claim to have suffered from the third generation contraceptive pill (see ‘Contraceptive pill companies sued’).

A drug for women with advanced breast cancer has at last been given approval by NICE, with the inevitable sad stories of women who have missed out because of the high cost of the drug. No sooner had the dust settled over that than leading cancer specialists were up in arms about another NICE decision (see ‘NICE: continuing controversy over drugs’).

Stem cell research was back in the news last month. Sadly, just as Britain looked set to become a world hub for such work, one of Dolly the sheep’s scientists is taking his cloning techniques abroad (see ‘Stem cell research: good and bad news’).

And just as we were getting used to seeing patients going abroad for ‘quick’ operations Alan Milburn announces that he is inviting German surgeons over here (see ‘We have ways of helping you’).


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