A Battle for Honesty and Safety in Medicine: Medical men fight back at patent 'cures' for Goitre in New Zealand in the twentieth century, presented by Claire Le Couteur
Date: Wednesday 16 May 2012
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Location: Room 311, History building
Contact: For further information regarding this event, please contact Chris Jones by sending email to email@example.com or by calling Ex. 6289
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Audience: University staff and students
New Zealand has had a problem with endemic goitre that pre-dates European settlement. Endemic or ‘simple’ goitre is caused by a lack of iodine in the diet but in the first quarter of the twentieth century scientists had not proven it definitively. This was in part due to the lack of suitable laboratory techniques to measure iodine in the environment or the diet. Professor Sir Charles Hercus of the Otago Medical School carried out a wideranging study for over twenty years into the cause and prevention of goitre in New Zealand. He encouraged the introduction of iodised salt into New Zealand, but because it took more than ten years to get the level of iodisation correct (and to get the public to use it) patent medicine vendors vied to sell their ‘goitre cures’ to a worried public. Some of these medicines were fraudulent and others were dangerous. In this talk I will describe some of the trials and tribulations that Hercus and the Health Department faced in preventing the promotion of these ‘cures’.
CLAIRE LE COUTEUR is a PhD candidate in the History Department at UC. Previously she studied science at the University of Otago and has worked in scientific research in several areas including biochemistry, pharmacology, biotechnology of plants, food science
and tussock grasslands. She has also taught secondary school science. She is a freelance science writer and editor, and is currently a volunteer at the Cotter Medical History Trust where she is cataloguing their collection of proprietary medicines.