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News In Brief


BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 26 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:174

Health workers leave Libyan jail: Six health workers who won a last minute reprieve from a firing squad in Libya arrived in Bulgaria on Tuesday. The five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian intern have spent the past eight years in Libyan prisons after being convicted of infecting more than 400 children with HIV. Their death sentences were commuted after the children's families were paid $1m (£490 000; €725 000) each in compensation (BMJ 2007;335:115, 21 Jul doi: 10.1136/bmj.39280.560995.D).

UK to review cannabis classification: A consultation document about the UK strategy for drugs has been published by the Home Office this week. As part of the consultation the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will be asked to review whether the danger of cannabis is increasing because of new, more potent varieties. It will also consider whether to reclassify cannabis from its current class, C, to class B.

United Nations warns of shortfall in aid: The United Nation's undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, and emergency relief coordinator, Sir John Holmes, is concerned about the global shortfall of $2.5bn (£1.2bn; €1.8bn) sought for the world's 19 humanitarian emergencies six months after the launch of a consolidated appeal. Halfway through the year, only 43% of the planned target of $4.4bn, which includes 21% for health, had been raised, he said, adding that the inadequate funding “hampers the effective delivery of assistance to the most vulnerable people in the world.”

Southall barred from child protection work for another year: The UK General Medical Council has extended restrictions imposed in 2004 on the paediatrician David Southall by 12 months. The GMC barred him from child protection work for three years after he told police that he had identified a child murderer while watching a television documentary. A review of the case in Manchester heard this week that Dr Southall had never shown remorse or apologised for accusing Stephen Clark, whose wife Sally Clark, then imprisoned, was later cleared of murdering her two children. Dr Southall faces a further GMC case in November, relating to alleged keeping of secret files about patients.

Spoof organ donation contest increases donor numbers: After the Netherlands' controversial Big Donor Show, in which 1.2 million viewers watched contestants pretending to compete for a donated kidney, 12 000 donor registration forms were returned compared with 3000-4000 in a typical month. In total, 2.9 million of the Dutch population of 16.4 million are now registered donors. Donor groups welcomed the latest figures but said that publicity alone was not the answer to increase available organs. Plans for a new registration system are expected in September.

Department of Health publicises rise in age for buying tobacco: The Department of Health has launched a campaign to inform retailers and the public that selling tobacco products to under 18 year olds will be illegal in England and Wales from 1 October, when new legislation will raise the age of sale for tobacco from 16 to 18 years. The change aims to reducing the prevalence of smoking among young people, which is about 9% in 11-15 year olds.

Iranian hospital allows fathers to attend births to reduce caesareans: Sarem Hospital, in Tehran, has become the first in Iran to allow fathers to attend the birth of their children, after being told it is allowed under the country's Islamic laws. An obstetrician at the hospital recommended the proposal after Iran's health ministry asked doctors to reduce the number of caesarean sections, which account for about 70% of births, largely a result of women's fears about the pain of childbirth and the worry that natural births make them less attractive to their husbands (, 23 Jul, “Father-to-be allowed into delivery room”).

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