Sunday, May 23, 2004

Below are three stories from the Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) "Courier Mail" of Saturday, May 22, 2004, that do not appear to be otherwise online

Lovers find themselves entwined in red tape

Renee Viellaris reports.

It's a romance that's been subject to a three-year inquiry and cost psychologist Susan Robinson her job. But still she remains committed to her lover, convicted armed robber Mark Robert Nolan. "We have been through a difficult time but we are basically okay and just want to move on with our lives," Ms Robinson said yesterday.

Earlier in the week she had been suspended from practising for six months. Every detail of the couple's relationship was scrutinised by the Psychological Board of Queensland, a government-appointed and funded regulatory authority. Love letters were scrutinised, telephone calls were taped, and visits made to the prison were filmed and watched.

Ms Robinson was 31 and Nolan 22 when they began their relationship in 2001, 19 months after they had first met at Brisbane's Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre.
She was his therapist at their first encounter. She counselled him for 20 hours over six months. When they met again after his release, she'd become a fulltime student and had ceased practising. He was homeless, she had a spare room at her Sherwood home, became his landlady and then his lover. Within a month he was back behind bars after reoffending but their relationship continued. He is due for release early next year.

The few weeks they spent together and their contact since Nolan returned to prison has been the focus of the inquiry which disciplined Robinson this week. It raises the question of why it matters if consenting adults conduct a relationship?

The answer, according to Jim O'Dempsey the executive officer of the Psychological Society of Queensland, rests on the "vulnerability" of Nolan.

Doctors escape discipline

Amanda Watt reports

THREE Toowoomba doctors responsible for a botched diagnosis that could have seen a pregnant woman abort her healthy baby have escaped disciplinary action. The Toowoomba Hospital staff will be offered additional "support and education" to ensure the error is not repeated.

The hospital revealed its decision yesterday while announcing major changes in response to its treatment of Gatton mum-to-be Sherri Ann Buchanan last month. Ms Buchanan, 20, was told by doctors that she'd had a partial miscarriage and they booked her in to remove the remains of the fetus. They allegedly refused her requests for an ultrasound.

She sought a second opinion at a private clinic and an ultrasound showed the baby alive and well. She has since instigated legal proceedings against the hospital.

Beattie not in favour of gay marriage

Rosemary Odgers reports

PREMIER Peter Beattie yesterday revealed he was opposed to gay marriages. Mr Beattie said while he supported the right of gay people to be treated fairly, he believed marriage should be a relationship between a man and a woman.

His comments came after it was reported a group within the Australian Labor Party known as Rainbow Labor would push for the party to support legalising gay marriage at the upcoming State conference.

"We have appropriate anti-discrimination laws here already that protect the rights of gay people. I think they're more than adequate," Mr Beattie said. "In terms of marriage, I have always believed that it's a matter between a man and a woman. I'm happy to be criticised for that." Last month, it was reported that Prime Minister John Howard planned to block legal recognition of gay marriages performed overseas.

The Federal Opposition is split on the issue although leader Mark Latham supports equity in superannuation for gay couples.

In its first term in office, the Beattie Government gave people in homosexual relationships access to domestic violence laws. These laws were extended last year when churches, including those that run schools, lost their right to refuse to employ gays. Under a compromise deal, gay teachers have to agree to behave in line with church teachings.

Saturday, May 22, 2004


The hospital doctors who fail a basic English test

By DARRELL GILES (political editor)

Overseas-trained doctors who have failed primary school level English tests are working in Queensland hospitals. An outraged Liberal Party deputy leader Bruce Flegg told State Parliament this week that there were hundreds of foreign doctors who could speak little better than "broken English". Dr Flegg expressed fears about the safety of patients being treated by these doctors. Doctors from countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have failed the basic English test. More than 1600 doctors from Third World countries come to Queensland each year.

A secret internal report by Queensland Health's medical adviser for rural health services, Denis Lennox, said a growing number of overseas doctors were being rushed into Queensland public hospitals and private medical centres to cover serious shortages, but their lack of competence was putting patients, employers and the community at risk, Dr Lennox's 2003 report said.

Dr Flegg in Parliament cited examples of problems with doctors. He said an Afghani doctor. working in a north Queensland public hospital, could not speak English and also proved to be totally deaf. "There had been no screening at all," Dr Flegg said.

A Middle Eastern-trained doctor in a Queensland public hospital told the 60-year-old mother of a doctor that she had to cease all her heart medications because the community could not afford to pay for medication for people over 60.

Dr Flegg said Queensland public hospitals had bypassed usual requirements by using a loophole claiming to be an "area of need" to employ the overseas-trained doctors who had failed or not even sat for the Australian Medical Council exam or any other test of their medical competency. "Supervising and senior clinicians are expressing concern. Queensland Health has taken no action." he said. "Why are Queenslanders being treated by people in public hospitals who have not passed even a basic medical competency exam?" Dr Flegg asked Health Minister Gordon Nuttall....


* How long have you been a pain in the neck?
* Put your child in the toilet (tip for toilet training a toddler)
* I've just examined that lump in your upper quadrant and you've got cancer. Are you happy about that?
* When you reach organism maybe you are not exciting
* Have you had any killers for the pain?
* You have low flying bones in your back
* Sex? You must never have sex. You are not a married woman
* You will need to iron your cervix (to a woman with an STD
* This patient is delusionai, crazy. Crazy pain in the head. He kept saying that he was kangaroo. (The patient was a "jackaroo" -- [Australian word for a cowboy])
* You must keep in control of your blood
* Your budgie will be fine after operation. You will be able to have sex again 100%, I guarantee
* You have big migrant head (ache)
* I am oversea trimmed doctor

The Medical Board of Queensland was given the responsibility of "ensuring public protection" by registering only overseas doctors who could deliver health care in a "professional, safe and competent way". "As many of these doctors are from a non-English speaking background. English language proficiencies have been found to be variable" the board policy statement said. English language proficiency however, is a requirement for all categories of registration. An acceptable level ... is necessary to enable practitioners to communicate with patients. other doctors and health professionals."

Mr Nuttall defended Queensland Health, but promised to look into Dr Flegg's allegations.

The above is an excerpt from an article that appeared on p. 15 of the "Sunday Mail" (Brisbane, Australia) on Sunday May 23, 2004, but which appears to be online here only

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Genes, Circumstances, and Intentions: Sonja Lyubomirsky's Model of Happiness

Developed with Ken Sheldon (University of Missouri) and David Schkade (University of Texas at Austin)

by Ben Dean, Ph.D.

The Model

I want to share with you Sonja's and her colleagues model of what determines happiness because it is straightforward and comprehensive, making it ideal for using in your work with coaching clients. Sonja and her colleagues believe that our happiness is caused by our Genetic Set Point, our Life Circumstances, and our Intentional Activities.

I will explain each piece of the pie and its contribution to happiness below. (Sonja came up with the approximate percentages by surveying and synthesizing the existing literature on happiness.

Set Point Explains 50% of Our Current Happiness

Our happiness set point is largely genetically determined. We enter the world with a predisposition toward a certain level of happiness, and when everything else is equal, our happiness levels tends to hover around this set point. You can probably identify those people in your life with a high happiness set point. These are the people who are perpetually and effortlessly happy. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those individuals who rarely laugh or experience joy. They have a low happiness set point. Fortunately for anyone who is dissatisfied with how happy he or she is "naturally," the model does not end here.

Life Circumstances Explain 10% of Current Happiness

According to their model, our level of happiness is also influenced by the circumstances of our lives. Life circumstances include demographic variable such as our age, sex, marital status, and income as well as contextual variables such as getting a new job, moving to a new neighborhood, or injuring a knee while running.

Both economists and psychologists have demonstrated that people tend to adapt quickly to positive and negative life events. When people are surveyed one year after a major life event such as winning the lottery or sustaining injuries in a car crash, they tend to be about as happy as they were just before the major event. Major boosts or dips in our happiness level due to life circumstances tend to be short-lived. We adapt to our life circumstances.

So what, if anything, can produce a lasting change in our happiness? Sonja and her colleagues believe that the answer lies in the final component of the model, Intentional Activities.

Intentional Activities Explain 40% of Our Current Happiness

The term intentional activities refers to those thoughts and behaviors that require effort. This effort may be apparent only to us (for example, making a list of goals for the week) or it may be visible to others (for example, doing a favor for a friend). They suggest that intentional activities are the key to making lasting changes in happiness because such activities are more resistant to adaptation (the process by which we get used to something and become unaffected by it). We can deliberately engage in activities that make us happy while varying them enough to ward off adaptation.

Support for the Model

Sonja and her colleague Ken Sheldon, Ph.D., recently found preliminary support for this model of happiness. They tracked the happiness levels and life events of undergraduates over one academic semester and found that both life circumstances and intentional activities predicted increased happiness midway through the semester. Yet by the end of the semester, only behavioral changes predicted increased happiness.

So it seems that if we want to be happier over the long-term, then we need to work at it over the long-term. There are no short-cuts. Maintaining happiness gains requires work in the same way that maintaining gains from a diet and fitness program does. Without sustained effort, changes in happiness are likely to be temporary.

Who is Sonja Lyubomirsky?

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Originally from Russia, she received her A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University in 1989 and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University in 1994. Honors include the Stanford Centennial Teaching Assistant Award, an NIMH National Research Service Award, an NSF Graduate Fellowship, a Jacob Javits Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Work, and the Harvard Faculty Prize for Outstanding Honors Thesis. Sonja currently teaches courses in social psychology and positive psychology and is Director of the Psychology Undergraduate Honors Program at UC Riverside. She recently obtained a 1 million dollar grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to develop and test exercises for increasing and sustaining happiness.

The above is an excerpt from a recent newsletter of The Authentic Happiness Organization