Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dumb university boss

Good grief! The clown thinks that Unitarianism is a MUSLIM sect! Unitarianism originated centuries ago among English Christians who thought that the doctrine of the Trinity is incoherent (it is) but these days they are mostly just wishy-washy Left-leaning Christians -- even more wishy-washy than the Anglicans. They are mostly found in the USA these days.

Griffith university is located in Brisbane and is widely seen there as coming a distant second to the University of Queensland in terms of academic quality. This episode certainly confirms that view

Griffith University vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor has admitted lifting information straight from online encyclopedia Wikipedia and confusing strands of Islam as he struggled to defend his institution's decision to ask the repressive Saudi Arabian Government for funding. Professor O'Connor also appears to have breached his own university's standards on plagiarism as they apply to students' academic work - a claim he denies. And he appears to have ignored his own past misgivings about Wikipedia and internet-based research.

In September, The Australian revealed that the Queensland university had accepted a grant of $100,000 from the Saudi Government. Last week, it was revealed that Griffith had asked the Saudi embassy in Australia for a $1.37million grant for its Islamic Research Unit, telling the ambassador that certain elements of the controversial deal could be kept a secret. Griffith - described by Professor O'Connor as the "university of choice" for Saudis - also offered the embassy a chance to "discuss" ways in which the money could be used.

Professor O'Connor's response to The Australian's revelations, which was published as an opinion article in the newspaper on Thursday, contained whole passages of text "cut and pasted" from Wikipedia. "The primary doctrine of Unitarianism is Tawhid, or the uniqueness and unity of God," Professor O'Connor wrote. "Wahhab also preached against a perceived moral decline and political weakness in the Arabian peninsula and condemned idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation." The Wikipedia entry for Wahhabism reads: "The primary doctrine of Wahhabism is Tawhid, or the uniqueness and unity of God ... He preached against a 'perceived moral decline and political weakness' in the Arabian peninsula and condemned idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation."

Professor O'Connor, whose academic credentials are in social work and juvenile justice, appears to have substituted the word Unitarianism for Wahhabism. He has admitted that the substitution, which came under fire from religious commentators, was not appropriate. In a statement issued yesterday, Professor O'Connor acknowledged his article "relied on several sources, and requires further clarity on Unitarianism".

"The article was based on material provided by senior staff and in pulling it together, a small number of sentences were not directly attributed; this was not intentional," he said in the statement. "It was prepared as a newspaper article for Thursday's Australian aiming to put the issue into context and communicate to the public the importance of the work of Griffith's Islamic Research Unit."

In September, Professor O'Connor expressed concern about Wikipedia and web-based research. "I am somewhat more ambivalent about Wikipedia: it and other sites in the world wide web seem to be changing social negotiation and the transfer of knowledge," he said in a paper presented with fellow academic Gavin Moodie. Wikipedia itself advises "special caution" when its material is used as a source for research projects. Professor O'Connor denies that by lifting sentences from Wikipedia he has breached his university's guidelines on plagiarism. The Griffith University council, of which Professor O'Connor is an ex-officio member, considers plagiarism an example of academic misconduct.

The policy - approved by the council on March 5 last year - defines plagiarism as "knowingly presenting the work or property of another person as if it were one's own". It gives an example of plagiarism as "word for word copying of sentences or paragraphs from one or more sources which are the work or data of other persons (including books, articles, thesis, unpublished works, working papers, seminar and conference papers, internal reports, lecture notes or tapes) without clearly identifying their origin by appropriate referencing".

Professor O'Connor yesterday tried to distance himself from the university's standards. "It was not as a piece of academic scholarship, therefore did not follow normal citation methods used in academic publications," he said. On Wednesday, Professor O'Connor published a full copy of his opinion piece on the Griffith website. Yesterday, the university added references to Wikipedia as footnotes.

Griffith University council member Dwight Zakus, senior lecturer at the university's Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sports Management, said he "strongly discouraged" his students from using Wikipedia as an academic reference. He said it was "problematic" for Professor O'Connor not to acknowledge he used Wikipedia as a source for his piece for The Australian.

But Henry Smerdon, Griffith deputy chancellor and university council member, told The Weekend Australian Professor O'Connor had his support. "As far as I'm concerned and as far as a wide section of the university is concerned, Ian is an outstanding academic, an outstanding leader and an outstanding human being and that has been proven on many occasions," he said. Mr Smerdon - a former under-treasurer in the state Treasury Department - said Professor O'Connor told him the opinion article was researched by senior staff. "He said it was unintentional and he probably realises that in the heat of the moment he could have been a little more careful," he said. He said there needed to be "a distinction drawn" between a response to criticisms in a newspaper and academic work.

Professor O'Connor's use of the term Unitarianism has also drawn criticism from ABC religion journalists and commentators Rachael Kohn, John Cleary and Stephen Crittenden, as well as the Henry Thornton website. "Ian O'Connor's equation of Wahhabism and Salafism with Unitarianism is utter nonsense," the ABC commentators wrote. "Unitarianism emerged as a liberal Christian movement and gained ground in the early years of American democracy."

Professor O'Connor now admits the term was misused. "Responding to today's Australian article, which criticised my use of the word Unitariaism in the article, I draw on the expertise of Dr Mohamad Abdalla, director of our Islamic Research Institute, who is one of Australia's most highly regarded Islamic scholars, to clarify the issue," he said. "Dr Abdalla confirms the more correct label is Muwahiddun, rather than the popular but problematic term Wahhabism."


Children in Australia's boom State may be forced to go elsewhere for surgery

WA children could be forced to travel interstate for surgery because Princess Margaret Hospital can't cope with the booming population, staff at the hospital have warned. A six-day-old boy recently had to undergo heart surgery in the Eastern States purely because there was not enough theatre space at PMH. The boy was transferred to Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

The state's only children's heart surgeon Dr David Andrews warned that it could become a trend. He said that theatre space at PMH was reaching "critical'' condition. "We have had no increase in theatre space since I started (at PMH) eight years ago,'' Dr Andrews said. "There is no spare theatres... everyone has to juggle around and try to be available when they are not normally available so they can use the theatre when it's free. "I know a lot of staff are doing out of hours surgery or changing around private operating lists so they can be free when there is a spare spot at PMH. "It is getting harder and the patients are getting shuffled more to fit in. "The (Health) Minister (Jim McGinty) has all the information that the workload has gone up.''

There has been a 20 per cent increase in WA births in the past two years. It is expected a record 30,000 babies will be born in the state this year.

Opposition Health spokesman Dr Kim Hames said the State Government must announce their future plans for PMH. "They need to be getting on with it now before building prices get significantly worse,'' Dr Hames said. "We've been saying over and over again that this needs to happen now.''

Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Gary Geelhoed said the boom in population could mean more local children are sent interstate for surgery unless PMH woes were addressed. "This will be inevitably happening in the future and more frequently if nothing changes in terms of resources available,'' Dr Geelhoed. "In the recent past they have sent one child (interstate) not because there was a clinical need but because they just couldn't fit it into the schedule here. "The equation of having the doctors, enough theatre space and ICU space was such that they just couldn't do it.''

Dr Geelhoed said interstate trips for child surgery could be problematic. "Medical risk aside, clearly the cost involved and the inconvenience to the families is a major thing,'' Dr Geelhoed said.

Dr Andrews said he was frustrated that the future of PMH was still undecided. 'There is no direction. They still haven't announced where PMH is heading,'' Dr Andrews said. "In the meantime, they need to acknowledge that the birth rate has gone up therefore the attendances to the hospital have gone up. "Every department will tell you they are under strain compared to what they used to be.''

A PMH nurse, who did not want to be named for fear of losing her job, said that WA urgently needed a bigger children's hospital. She said that PMH's Intensive Care Unit, which only has 10 beds, was running to maximum capacity. "We need a bigger children's hospital in WA,'' she said. "Children are forced to fly interstate because we just don't have the facilities to accommodate them. "As a booming state with such an exceptional increase in population, the government is severely lacking in its consideration of the children of the future.''

The nurse said a lack of government funding and red-tape was jeopardising patient care. "Late last year a five-year-old boy came in for an MRI scan on the weekend,'' she said. "We don't have government funding to use the MRI on the weekend so that child had to be kept under spinal precaution until Monday. "It was a situation that could have quite easily been managed if we could have had that scan.''



Two current articles below

Your regulators will protect you (1)

The State Government should publish online "report cards" for doctors so the public can judge their competency, the daughter of a woman who died after an obesity operation said yesterday. Leesa MacLeod's mother Ursula died in 2003 after having a biliary pancreatic diversion - which involves a radical reduction of the stomach and small intestine. Ms MacLeod said yesterday her mother, who was 57, would not have allowed Gold Coast surgeon Russell Broadbent to operate had she known there were questions about his skills.

Dr Broadbent faces suspension or deregistration for his allegedly incompetent surgical and post-operative treatment on at least 11 patients. Court documents have revealed that six of the surgeon's former patients who had radical surgery to combat obesity suffered severe complications. Three of the six died. The Medical Board of Queensland was granted leave in the Health Practitioners Tribunal yesterday to refer the names of two more patients to the tribunal for investigation after receiving an expert opinion into their treatment.

Ms MacLeod said her mother's treatment had been appalling and that she had been living a nightmare since her death more than four years ago. She said prospective patients would benefit from a system where a doctor's record - including success and mortality rates - was transparent. The Medical Board began proceedings against the surgeon in the tribunal late last year following a complaint from Ms MacLeod.

The board has also taken up the complaints of five other former patients of Dr Broadbent's, all of whom allege they received surgical procedures that resulted in complications. One of those patients has already sued Dr Broadbent and received $650,000 in damages in an out-of-court settlement. Dr Broadbent's operations took place between 2000 and 2007 in the Allamanda and Pindara private hospitals on the Gold Coast.

The board alleges that Dr Broadbent failed to manage and treat Mrs MacLeod's fluid intake and renal function after the operation. The board further says he failed to investigate her persistent vomiting, diarrhoea and rectal bleeding and that he failed to start treatment for septicaemia in a timely manner. It also accuses the doctor of failing to refer Mrs MacLeod to other specialists to assist in the investigation of her deterioration. Civil proceedings have been launched in the Supreme Court on behalf of Ms McLeod. The matter will again be mentioned before the tribunal in two weeks.


Your regulators will protect you (2)

Every time Dr Cynthia Weinstein's head pops up in the news, I get a little shock. Not just because her face looks like it has been tightly stretched, burned and painted. No, what most shocks me about seeing her face is that Dr Cynthia Weinstein is still allowed to work as a doctor. I believe she should have been struck off years ago.

I first met Cynthia Weinstein 12 years ago when investigating a story about professional standards in the cosmetic surgery business. I saw her operate on patients wearing her civilian clothes and without the obvious, usual scrubbing up. I saw the silicone she had stored for injecting into patients' faces, even though this was not an approved procedure.

One poor young woman had turned up for skin treatment and Cynthia Weinstein told her that if she didn't also have eyelid surgery she could go blind. It was all dangerous baloney, as explained by a reputable surgeon I showed my tapes to. I later found out that Dr Weinstein had also offered this particular patient a discount if she was filmed for my TV report. Sounds a lot like inappropriate inducement. It all went horribly wrong, of course, and I was not allowed to see the suffering patient after surgery because, as Dr Weinstein told me with no hint of irony, the woman was in pain and having trouble seeing.

The crucial question then and now is, how best can the public be protected from the likes of Dr Cynthia Weinstein? Dr Weinstein is currently up before the board for professional misconduct for the third time. In a spectacular case of deja vu, she is facing allegations that she messed up the surgeries of six patients and performed cosmetic procedures that she was banned from doing.

This set of allegations may or may not be proved. The main point, it seems to me, is that what already has been proved against her should be more than sufficient to retire her. Dr Weinstein has been found guilty of being grossly professionally negligent by subjecting patients to treatment by unqualified personnel. She is also guilty of ripping off Medicare and has a criminal conviction from the County Court. She is now quibbling with what surgery means, arguing if she cuts her patients with a laser instead of scalpel she's not really operating on them.

I've heard people say its hard to feel sympathy for anyone who chooses to have treatment from someone who looks like Cynthia Weinstein. But the question of appearances can do weird things to people's heads, so to speak. It seems reasonable to assume that the woman's face is not what you'd call a good advertisement for her line of work. And yet there are many, many people who think otherwise. The patient I met who was talked into having her eyes done told me she thought Cynthia's face was gorgeous and a credit to her profession. Seriously.

Cynthia herself seems very happy with the way she looks. She did her own phenol skin peel years ago and now appears to me to have skin resembling shiny plastic. Her nose appears to be a fraction of its former size and her cheeks appear strangely bulbous and sited high on her skull. She looks thin enough to snap in a mild breeze. A colleague of Dr Weinstein's has told the Practitioners Board that patients flock to Cynthia because of her looks. And it's true, she sees an average of 25 patients a day. Fair enough if this is anyone's idea of beauty, we live in a free society.

But while we can't protect people from themselves, we can help protect them from unprofessional or negligent medical practitioners.


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