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Dealing Drugs with the Bush



The past year in bioethics in Australia has been relatively predictable. We continue to struggle with rising healthcare costs, though thankfully not on par with numerous other countries due to a relatively positive economic outlook. We are still fighting difficulties associated with higher medical indemnity costs, which have again caused many physicians to leave private practice, particularly in high-risk and specialty practice areas. In response, the federal government (following a shuffle of ministerial positions including that of the federal health minister) delayed the imposition of the medical indemnity levy for physicians until mid 2005. In May, the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Health Ethics Commission issued their final joint report on genetic testing entitled “Essentially Yours” and endorsed use of genetic tests by insurance companies, despite the concerns of some geneticists and many members of the public about their scientific reliability. However, they also advocated the establishment of the Human Genetics Commission of Australia (HGCA) to oversee such uses of genetic tests in terms of both scientific and actuarial reliability, and debates continue over the implementation of this and a number of their other recommendations. And state governments continue to phase in smoking bans in public places, with most implementing full bans in enclosed restaurants and cafes and planning to require provision of nonsmoking areas in all pubs within the next year.Thanks to Fiona Mackenzie for research assistance.



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