Wednesday, February 06, 2008

1000's of Lives at Risk? Tell me another one, Gary.

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, another day, another confirmation of lies and exaggerations by the HarpoonTossers. Along with the gal I adore, Earth Mother Lizzie May, a few of us bloggers been sayin' the so-called isotope crisis weren't really a crisis, at all. Even if it were a crisis, it was entirely manufactured and avoidable.

Here's another piece of evidence to add to the stinkin' heap.

Doubt cast on assertion that thousands of lives at risk in Chalk River fiasco

OTTAWA - Doubt was cast Tuesday on the Harper government's assertion that thousands of lives could have been lost if it hadn't forced resumption of isotope production at the Chalk River nuclear reactor.

Dr. Karen Gulenchyn, a nuclear medicine expert who helped advise federal Health Minister Tony Clement during the isotope shortage last December, said it's "very difficult" to speculate on what might have happened to patients whose diagnostic tests were delayed due to the shortage.

"It's a very difficult question to answer," she told the Commons natural resources committee.

Pushed by committee members to elaborate, Gulenchyn finally added: "Could people have died? Yeah, they could have under certain circumstances."

Her cautious appraisal of the situation was in contrast to the bold assertions by Clement and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn. They have raised the spectre of massive loss of life to justify the government's decision last December to force the reopening of the reactor over the objections of Canada's nuclear safety regulator.

Clement has spoken of the "huge human health impacts" of allowing the reactor, which produces about half the world's supply of medical isotopes, to remain shut down.

And Lunn has justified the subsequent firing of Linda Keen from her post as president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission by arguing that she was "willing to put the lives of thousands of Canadians in jeopardy."

Isotopes are used primarily in diagnostic tests for cancer and heart disease.

If Gulenchyn was cautious, Dr. Thomas Perry from the University of British Columbia, was downright skeptical of the government's claims of a health care emergency.

Although not a nuclear medicine expert himself, Perry said he's spoken to many colleagues in his province who've told him the isotope crisis was "much ado about nothing." The former NDP provincial politician said he couldn't think of one diagnostic test that couldn't have been conducted in an alternate way without isotopes.

Gulenchyn said the group of experts who advised Clement during the crisis found that the impact of the Chalk River closure varied greatly across the country. British Columbia was the least affected while eastern Canada and small and remote communities, with the least access to alternative diagnostic equipment, were hardest hit.

Among patients awaiting diagnostic tests, she said the group found delay could result in serious harm for about 10 per cent and in delayed treatment and unnecessary pain for another 50 per cent. About 40 per cent of cases could be safely deferred.

Had the reactor not come back on line on Dec. 16, Gulenchyn said "we believe unmanageable shortages would have occurred within a week." She conceded that European reactors could likely have taken up the slack, had they been given enough advance notice to ramp up their operations, but that was not the case in December.
(Source - there's more and it's worth readin')

So, an adviser to Clement who is a nuclear medicine expert says, "European reactors could likely have taken up the slack, had they been given enough advance notice to ramp up their operations, but that was not the case in December." It was not the case in November, either. MDS Nordion was well aware that the supplies from Chalk River would be disrupted. They put out press releases in November to that effect.

MDS Nordion also claimed that hey were working with their European competitors to obtain alternate supplies. So far, we've seen or heard zero evidence to back up that assertion.

I gotta go an' take ol' Spot fer his mornin' exercise now. I'll post more on this later.


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