- Autism experts are calling for changes in diagnostic testing, saying the current approach is failing to identify the true number of females with the disorder.
- Parents who have had children through surrogates in Australia say the thriving overseas surrogacy market is being fuelled by messy Australian laws.
- Philip Nitschke’s lawyers have argued an appeal against his suspension by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) should be held in the Northern Territory where he has been registered as a doctor for 25 years.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 7th August 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Autism experts are calling for changes in diagnostic testing, saying the current approach is failing to identify the true number of females with the disorder.
They say a massive imbalance in the number of autism diagnoses between the sexes could be attributed to more subtle symptoms in females that are either dismissed by clinicians, or undetected by current testing, which focuses on signs associated with male behaviour.
American psychologist Dr Lori Ernsperger, who specialises in working with girls with autism, believes the high ratio of boys to girls diagnosed with the condition suggests a flaw in current diagnostic questionnaires.
The challenge in diagnosing girls with autism is a focus of Dr Ernsperger, who is speaking at a conference in Melbourne.
She believes the diagnostic questionnaires doctors use for autism focus mainly on the male characteristics of the disorder and are yet to be adapted for girls.
“That doctor is going to do a diagnostic checklist … it may have 20 questions or so [but] they’re the sort of questions that lend themselves to male behaviour or boy behaviour,” she said.
Dr Ernsperger says she has been contacted by many women with autism spectrum disorders who say they have been able to mask their symptoms and be successful in school and university while struggling in other areas of life such as forming enduring friendships.
Parents who have had children through surrogates in Australia say the thriving overseas surrogacy market is being fuelled by messy Australian laws.
Their comments come in the wake of the baby Gammy scandal, where an Australian couple abandoned their disabled surrogate child in Bangkok.
Australian laws vary wildly, with some states banning gay couples and single women from having a surrogate child, while others criminalise anyone who pays an overseas surrogate.
One couple, Adrian and Kylie Raftery, have moved from Sydney’s Blue Mountains to Melbourne because they are worried about possible prosecution if they have an overseas surrogacy.
Ms Raftery nearly died during the premature birth of their first child, Sophie, who was stillborn and doctors told her she would not survive another birth.
Four years later they had another child, Hamish, through a domestic surrogacy. Now they want to have another baby.
According to surrogacy law expert Professor Jenni Millbank, the Raftery family have been caught by 2010 NSW legislation.
“NSW introduced rules specific to surrogacy and also introduced extra-territorial criminal prohibition on commercial surrogacy,” she said.
“So that means NSW couples travelling anywhere else in the world for commercial surrogacy are committing a criminal offence, as they are in Queensland and the ACT.”
But Professor Millbank says that ban on commercial surrogacy has had little effect on the practice.
The medical director of IVF Australia, Dr Peter Illingworth, has great reservations about commercial surrogacy.
Calling for legislation change, Dr Illingworth says that legally, the baby is considered the child of the surrogate, and a judge must determine parentage after the baby is born.
That means that surrogates can walk away from an arrangement after the child is born.
Philip Nitschke’s lawyers have argued an appeal against his suspension by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) should be held in the Northern Territory where he has been registered as a doctor for 25 years.
A directions hearing in Darwin today was dominated by arguments over jurisdiction, with lawyers for the MBA saying the appeal should be heard in South Australia.
Dr Nitschke was in South Australia when he emailed 45-year-old Perth man Nigel Brayley to support his decision to take his own life.
… the board used its emergency powers to suspend Dr Nitschke, saying he presented “a serious risk to public health and safety”.
Dr Nitschke immediately vowed to appeal against the decision.
His lawyers have been given until August 15 to respond to arguments about jurisdiction.
A date for the next hearing has not been set.
People seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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