Letters to
the editor

Doctors’ guidance on cancer treatment

Two articles in The Saturday Paper touch on dilemmas related to cancer diagnosis that medical practitioners face every day. The first (Rick Morton, “Exclusive: Doctors ignore terminal cancer”, July 11-17) dissects the delay in diagnosis of follicular lymphoma in Daniel van Roo. The contention is that van Roo being homosexual, and thereby in a high-risk group for sexually transmitted infections, distracted his doctors from looking more widely for a cause of his symptoms, even when STI tests were repeatedly negative. The other article, Sophia Auld’s “Risk analysis” (July 11-17), raises the challenge of balancing the benefits of early detection against the risk of unnecessary and detrimental treatment. The implication is that the patient should be presented with all the statistical facts and that they should make the decision about the next step. Fine in theory, but almost inevitably patients want to be guided by a trusted soul towards a recommended course of action. That’s where the doctor–patient relationship comes into its own. Doctors need to know how to present the facts in a readily understood format and guide the patient to a decision they are comfortable with. Being a good doctor has many facets, but dealing compassionately with cancer is one of the most demanding and, strangely enough, one of the most rewarding.

– Peter Barry, Marysville, Vic

Time to build new public housing

Santilla Chingaipe’s article “Five days inside the Melbourne nine block lockdowns” (July 11-17) is a revelation on the fragility of the crisis for residents. It is also a testament to the response by the community. The social and economic consequences of housing thousands of people in tower blocks is appallingly apparent in Melbourne in this Covid-19 pandemic. There needs to be a radical rethink on public housing. On the ABC’s The Drum last week, Terry Barnes, a former Liberal adviser, said that a Victorian Liberal government had examined replacing these tower blocks but had considered it too expensive. Now the social and economic consequences in this pandemic crisis are massive. These costs are yet to be calculated. Surely radical reform is needed? The national cabinet could examine a long-term relocation policy to replace this form of housing. When interest rates are likely to remain at historically low levels for years, Commonwealth, state and territory governments could design a strategy for replacement as part of a national infrastructure program that would yield enormous social and economic advantages. It would provide a huge economic stimulus and help to provide a wide range of jobs in various skill sets. This could be likened to the post-World War II reconstruction that provided major benefits to Australian society and stimulated the economy for decades. This is indeed a huge opportunity for national reconstruction.

– Miles Farwell, Griffith, ACT

Medical advice missing from towers story

I rely on The Saturday Paper for in-depth analysis of important issues but I was disappointed by your coverage of Victoria’s lockdown of nine public housing towers. There was no medical voice to explain the urgent need for lockdown, without giving notice. It’s pretty obvious that if residents were given warning, there would have been a panicked rush to get out, go shopping, visit or stay with friends and families – all of which would have further spread the virus. Authorities saw the health situation as potentially explosive, given the number of known infections among tower residents and a comparable precedent in New York. Finally, there was little acknowledgement of the generous cash benefits provided by the government: free rent for a fortnight, free food (despite some teething problems) and a cash bonus of either $750 or $1500. Surely that might have helped persuade residents that the government’s motives were not evil. We already have the Murdoch media going apoplectic about the Andrews government and the pandemic. We expect a bit more balance from you.

– Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills, Vic

Harder line necessary to save lives

It’s clearly time we were told what to do: asking nicely is not working properly. Your editorial (“A second chance”, July 11-17) suggests kindness and clarity are what’s needed, rather than police enforcement. That softer approach was the government’s initial response, but there’s too much evidence that it is failing and stricter measures are required. Too many of us seem unable or unwilling to accept individual responsibility unless we are threatened with sanctions. Being tested, maintaining social distance, self-isolating, observing quarantine, keeping within restricted areas, wearing masks: no matter how inconvenient or onerous it may be, we need to realise we do not have a choice. If we are to gain any kind of control of the pandemic, the order of the day is to heed medical advice and support stronger government restrictions. Until we accept this reality, we are only inviting longer and wider lockdowns and harsher penalties. It’s only common sense: this is a worldwide emergency, not a local political game.

– Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale, Vic

Kate’s Oscars no-shows

In her review of Darleen Bungey’s book Daddy Cool (Books, July 4-10) Linda Jaivin writes that Robert Cutter “performed before Katharine Hepburn and Clark Gable at the Academy Awards”. This is not possible. Hepburn famously avoided the Oscars, despite being named Best Actress four times. The only time she actually attended was in 1974 to present the Irving Thalberg Award, long after Cutter’s performing career was over and he had become Lawrie Brooks in Australia. Perhaps Bungey’s research is not as good as claimed.

Richard Mason, Newtown, NSW

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 18, 2020.

A free press is one you pay for. Now is the time to subscribe.