Superwoman

The world’s oldest woman who died two years ago aged 115 had the physical and mental condition of a 60 to 80-year-old, according to doctors who have examined the body.


Let’s celebrate this wonderful achievement, the Americans would have said. Let’s get bogged down in an ethical dispute about whether the medical details should have been published, is what the Dutch authorities are doing.
Dutch woman Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, who partly attributed her longevity to consuming herrings and an odd glass of gin, had no furring of the arteries and her brain was in a condition normally associated with woman 40 years her junior. Doctors say this was not due to gin but to genes.
The findings were published on the website of a scientific magazine. Understandably, neurologists and pathologists at the hospital that examined the body were eagers to share the information. What is more, Hendrikje’s family did not object to the publication.
Ah, but the bosses at the hospital, UMCG in Groningen, have a duty to protect the privacy of patients past and present. They were disgusted at the publication and are now considering what action to take against the main culprit, a neurologist who led the research team.
Clearly one has to be very careful with how one deals with patient privacy. But surely on this occasion one should be proud and open. Hendrikje, one imagines, would have certainly raised her glass and said “cheers”.