Observations

Sometimes it takes a loss of life to make a difference

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39430.705752.94 (Published 10 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:73
  1. Craig A Sinclair, director, prevention and screening1,
  2. Jennifer K Makin, SunSmart research and evaluation manager1
  1. 1Cancer Council Victoria, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: C A Sinclair craig.sinclair{at}cancervic.org.au

    Media coverage of one death from melanoma helped spur on Australian legislation on sunbeds, but the groundwork had already been laid

    Clare Oliver, aged 26, died in Melbourne from melanoma on 13 September 2007. This was just one of more than 1200 deaths related to melanoma that occur each year in Australia. However, in Clare’s last month of life she decided to publicise the dangers of sunbed use, which she blamed for her melanoma. A 10 minute segment on a current affairs programme on national television soon led to a media frenzy, with television news, daily newspapers, and talkback radio picking up the tragic story of this personable, dying young woman. After only two days of intense media exposure the state of Victoria’s health minister announced the need for legislation to control the use of sunbeds. A day later this was supported by the state premier and by the federal health minister and prime minister, who all stated the need for nationally uniform legislation. It seemed that Clare Oliver had achieved in a matter of days what others had been advocating for more than a decade.

    The press coverage

    The Clare Oliver story broke on 21 August 2007. A retrospective search by a media monitoring company for mentions in the following month generated more than …

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