Outrage at AGL’s interference in Doctor-Patient Relationships

country gp

Normally it is between you and me, but today AGL will be joining us

The medical profession, as a profession, is meant to self-govern and self-regulate its members in order to uphold the highest ethical standards in delivering medical advice, care and treatment. Integral to which is the almost sacred Doctor-Patient Relationship. That relationship requires utmost confidence in the Doctor’s ability to act impartially and in the best interests of the patient at all times.

AGL – which operates Macarthur and Glen Thompson wind farms – has turned that relationship on its head by sending crudely written propaganda sheets to a dozen medical clinics adjacent to wind farms.

An example of the type of letter sent to Macarthur Doctors is available here.

Imagine how long-suffering Macarthur victim, Jan Hetherington felt when she saw a copy of that letter sitting on her GP’s desk, listening to her GP parrot the unsubstantiated dribble tossed up by AGL about noise, sleep and health?

Finding good medical support in regional areas is hard enough (trust and confidence in the medico is critical to good long term health outcomes) having corporate interests interfering in that relationship to preserve their own selfish interests, is nothing short of outrageous.

Sharing STT’s outrage is none other than the good Senator from Victoria, John “Marshall” Madigan, who fired off this broadside in the Senate last week.

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Wind Farms: Health Effects SPEECH
Senator John Madigan
17 March 2014

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (22:19): Tonight I rise to speak on the relationship between a community and their doctors and how that relationship has been bastardised. But first I will give the chamber some background. In January 2012, researchers at the renowned Stanford School of Medicine published a report that found tobacco companies had conducted a carefully crafted, decades-long campaign to manipulate throat doctors. The aim was to calm concerns among an increasingly worried public that smoking might be bad for their health.

The campaign by the tobacco industry, beginning in the 1920s, continued for over half a century. I repeat, it continued for more than 50 years. Tobacco companies successfully influenced physicians to not only promote the notion that smoking was healthy but actually to recommend it as a treatment for throat irritation. The tobacco industry did this by schmoozing doctors and by bribing them, and for a long period of time it was a widespread and successful campaign. So it is clear that the medical profession is not immune to outside pressure, to financial inducements, and to the lure of research grants and corporate donations. It happens, it is real and it impacts members of our community in devastating ways.

Australia is not exempt from this. A 2006 University of NSW paper by Susan Engel and Brian Martin says companies have a range of techniques to devalue, demonise, discredit or vilify victims of corporate activities. Companies can label victims as misguided, ignorant, complainers, self-seeking, vindictive, pawns in the hands of anti-corporate manipulators, or even as criminals. The paper quotes the CEO of CSR in the late 1980s, who referred to asbestos claimants as ‘malingerers’. The asbestos industry in Australia hid medical evidence of the health impacts of asbestos dust from at least the mid-1930s through to the late 1970s. As late as 1976 a pamphlet from James Hardie denied outright any risk to consumers of asbestos products. And parts of the medical industry—and I use the word ‘industry’ deliberately—were complicit in this.

With the benefit of hindsight, we look back at such practices—such corruption and venality—with appropriate horror. And we hope it would not happen in this country again. But this brings me to a current example of a major Australian company—a household name—that has attempted to influence and intervene in people’s relationships with their doctors. I have in my possession a letter written by one of our power generation companies, AGL—a household name in Australia and, for many, a trusted name. In November 2012, AGL wrote to doctors at 12 clinics across western Victoria about one of its power generation facilities, the Macarthur wind farm. These medical practices span an area of several hundred kilometres, from Hamilton in the north to Portland and Warrnambool in the south.

In short, the letter aims to discredit and discount any patient visiting any doctor with any claims of ill health brought about by living near the Macarthur wind farm. It is an outrageous and pre-emptive example of corporate propaganda and was directed straight into the consulting rooms of rural and regional doctors. It suggested that anyone presenting to their doctor with symptoms of wind turbine syndrome should be directed by that doctor to visit the AGL Macarthur wind farm website or to ring the Macarthur wind farm community engagement team! If a similar letter had come from a coalmine or a coal seam gas company, I am sure Senator Di Natale and the Greens would be howling in selective moral outrage. This letter categorically denies any health impacts from living near wind turbines.

This is a blatant lie. It is now on the public record that many residents near Macarthur wind farm have experienced serious health effects and repetitive sleep disturbance since the beginning of operation of merely 15 of the 140 turbines at the beginning of October 2012. In 2013, when the turbines had been operating for not even a year, a preliminary health survey was carried out, anonymously, in this district—and the results were astounding. Around 23 families responded to this survey, indicating around 66 people living out to eight kilometres were already experiencing detrimental impacts from the turbines. Once again, AGL has totally denied responsibility. It is extraordinary and sobering that so many families who have lived in this district happily and healthily for between 30 and 50 years suddenly all began to experience serious health symptoms at the same time when the turbines began operation. And it is on the public record that rural and regional communities living near turbines around the world are suffering similar symptoms.

In support of its propaganda, in that letter to local doctors dated 13 November 2012 AGL quoted an organisation called the Climate and Health Alliance. The CAHA includes a coterie of known public health pro-wind supporters such as Fiona Armstrong, Liz Hanna, Peter Taft, Suzie Bourke, Michael Moore and Simon Chapman. The CAHA is not an independent health body by any stretch of the imagination. It is a pro-wind health lobby group whose clinical members ignore their professional ethics and the known science. And did this letter from AGL to doctors across Victoria work? I have in front of me a statement from one local resident, Janet Hetherington, who said her doctor’s reaction to her symptoms changed remarkably after he received the AGL letter. Janet said she felt violated by the experience. And she was forced to seek medical help elsewhere.

This is unprofessional and dishonest behaviour by a major Australian company. Like the tobacco and asbestos industries, the wind power generation sector has long known its products make people sick. I call on the government to move as quickly as possible towards independent eminent health research into wind farms.
The Senate

“Hats off” John, there really are no excuses for corporate behaviour like this in 2012; if ever such conduct could justifiably be excused.

STT is very pleased to hear that progress is being made in the Health Minister’s office on the scope and nature of the Coalition’s planned health enquiry, with details to emerge shortly.

John Madigan

DLP Senator John Madigan: Standing up for the health of Macarthur residents

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Old Ranga says:

    I assume someone is holding a signed copy of the offending letter? Evidence, you understand. Nothing like the word ‘fraud’ to put the wind up (sorry) a dodgy operator.

  2. Why would any doctor take note of this crap? If it arrived on my desk it would make me highly suspicious.
    You would really wonder how any doctor especially in a area with wind turbines would take this seriously. Surely it would ring alarm bells ?

  3. I am absolutely disgusted with AGL’s denial of health problems connected to wind turbines. What a nasty, dirty trick Amanda Shaw has done in writing this load of lies. At least Sen Madigan can see through all the propaganda. Come on AGL – do the attenuation on our homes if there are no problems!

  4. Good job John. Fancy AGL sending GPs around the Macarthur fans these letters. What slimy grubby little ba$tards they are.

  5. David Mortimer says:

    It has been suggested that wind turbine hosts may be liable to be prosecuted for allowing turbines on their property and that those turbines cause harm to their neighbours. I wonder if the same applies to non turbine hosts who have signed “good neighbour” agreements with the wind energy developers. They must surely be complicit and therefore also liable for prosecution.

    Their silence must influence the opinion of medical practitioners who have been sold a pack of lies by professional snake oil merchants. Does it then follow that the medical practitioners who have been so influenced are also complicit?

    The web of possible litigation spreads like the cancer that the wind industry is.

  6. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    John Madigan is a wonder and he has, in the Senate, ensured AGL is on notice. While there are those in Parliament who may support this horrible industry, they cannot surely accept such interference with the patient doctor relationship, surely they cannot condone the AMA’s unreserved support of this industry. They are meant to be impartial, especially if what they are saying has not been thoroughly medically investigated and proven.
    What of the doctors themselves? They are meant to be above all commercial interests, they are meant to make judgement on a patients condition, taking into account all variables. One would hope that even the most junior of doctors, even those in training, would have to have the ability to understand this, and be able to sort the ‘chaff from the wheat’ when they receive such rampant self interest propaganda, and recognise when their professional body is being manipulated by what is most probably a financial interest or a self belief in one side of an issue.

    What has become of this country if we cannot trust such people to act in an ethical and impartial manner where our health is concerned?

    It’s about time a broad based ICAC investigation into this industry was carried out in every state so we can get to the bottom of what is going on – because it seems there is something wrong somewhere – when these apparent professional people are willingly putting peoples’ health at risk.

  7. This is a disgrace.
    Doctors are supposed to have the patients best interest as their concern.

    Not this BS that is being fed to them.
    No wonder our Medical Profession is getting the name it deserves.
    As carrying the care of Politics as their main concern not us their Patients.

    Toe the Political line and collect the money from Medicare.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Australian Medical Association (see our posts here and here and here and here); […]

  2. […] Outrage at AGL’s interference in Doctor-Patient Relationships […]

  3. […] week we brought you the details of Senator John Madigan’s speech in the Senate exposing the way AGL has tried to manipulate the medical services of rural Australia […]

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