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By Kate Brayden

I don't trust doctors with my body.

First of all, they're not Gods, they're human. As a young woman, and especially for people of colour and for those with disabilities, trusting someone with your body can be a dangerous mistake. 

Second of all; I have been misdiagnosed numerous times during my three years of chronic pain, yet I managed to get diagnosed with endometriosis in three years when the average amount of time is remarkably longer. In fact, it takes the regular person with a uterus nine years in Ireland to get handed their scratch card with the unlucky result on it.

My father is a pharmacologist, and when I asked him why the funding for research regarding this particular illness is so low, he said that it was presumably because of it's rarity. I then pointed out that it affects one in 10 people with uteruses (to include the transgender community), and he was undeniably disturbed. It's one of the main links to female infertility, yet the progress and pain which women have to go through to be believed and treated is still preposterously lengthy. 

Endometriosis is an illness affecting people with uteruses, where tissue which lines the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your womb. It commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and tissue lining your pelvis, but can appear in the bowel and bladder also. Displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as if everything was regular- it thickens, breaks down and bleeds every time you get your period. It becomes trapped, without any way to exit the body. The symptoms include heavy bleeding during menstruation, lower back pain, pain during sex, infertility, pain during urination or with bowel movements, nausea, bloating and dysmenorrhea (painful periods.) It's zero craic, I'll tell you that for free.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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It's often misdiagnosed as IBS, ovarian cysts, Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder (PIV) or even just female hysteria, due to the 'gender pain gap'. Back in the day, people genuinely created an illness surrounding female mental health, with symptoms attributing to; delusions, nervousness, hallucinations, emotional outbursts and various urges of the sexual variety. A bit like witch-hunting, where 'deviant' women (basically all the single ladies and spinsters) were presumed to be the devil's workers purely out of misogyny. The word 'womb' actually translates to 'hysteria', insinuating that anyone cursed with this life-bearing organ is marked with it's limitations and presumptions about the woman's mind and body.

Caroline Criado Perez' vast and valuable work, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, argues that the gender pain gap is part and pace of something bigger; “gender data gap.” The data which society has collected is typically about men's experiences, and most often straight, white men. The data is used to allocate research funding and design decisions all around us from public transport to housing, healthcare to infrastructure. The 'default', is always male, she says.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Pain medication has been designed by men with men in mind as the default user, therefore the side effects are rarely tested on women. This is only one small example of the repercussions in female healthcare of the gender data gap. We are twice as likely to die of heart related diseases, and far less likely to be given pain relief or treated immediately in the Emergency Department.

After suffering for two years of chronic pain, I know when to spot a doctor who sees my symptoms as 'psychosomatic'. That's in inverted commas because ALL pain is real, even for those whose emotion is controlling their physical torment. After exhausting all my resources in the Irish healthcare system as well as the UK, I decided it was time to remove all my savings from the bank and book a plane ticket to Washington DC. When you have intense chronic pain every single day and doctors have no idea how to help you, spontaneous and stubborn choices are easy. I learned to go with my gut, and to stand up for myself in clinics. Many female chronic pain sufferers maintain that they receive noticeably better treatment and empathy if her boyfriend or husband is in the room with them. I can also vouch for this. When my boyfriend accompanied me to doctor appointments, the practitioner would often turn to him for answers to questions which were directed at me, or about me. 'Health-care gaslighting' is oh so real, and I have lost count of how many times I was told to 'take a Panadol' when I went to A&E.

One of my first consultant experiences where I was having extreme abdominal cramping, nausea and burning sensations in my pelvis, back and legs was in a major maternity hospital in Dublin. It was intimidating for a 21-year-old woman who was neither pregnant nor accompanied by anyone. The consultant who I waited four months in crippling pain to meet was a prominent doctor whose name was tied to the CervicalCheck scandal. Basically, I waited to see a doctor who was destined to shrug me off. 

It went downhill from there. Over the course of two and a half years, I had nerve blocker injections, was put on Lyrica and Amitriptylene (two nerve pain medications with enormously harsh side effects and little worth), had intense physiotherapy, diet transformation, two inconclusive biopsies, smear tests, hormone treatments, and every blood, allergy and auto-immune test under the sun. I was refused a CT scan and an MRI, and decided it was time to get a laparoscopy. This is the only way for a woman to find out if she has endometriosis, and despite the fact that I fit all the symptoms, it was never offered to me. Just coming up to my second year of consistent pain, I was sent to a consultant gynaecologist in the Mater Private to stop my menstrual cycle. My nerve pain was cyclical and I desperately wanted to stop this aspect of my pain. I requested a laparoscopy from a relatively young, male doctor, and was refused. I explained that aspects of my pain fitted the symptoms, but nevertheless he denied it. After calling a family member into the room for back-up, he eventually agreed and I was scheduled in for the keyhole surgery. 

I was brought in some time later for my results, instead of being called over the phone or sent an email. He spoke to me for under two minutes, said there was no evidence for my pain and my GP ceased my pain medication. He said there was no endometriosis in the scans, and that he had no other ideas to offer me for my mysterious chronic illness. In under two minutes and for €200, his words translated to; 'I don't believe you. You're being dramatic.' I stormed out of his office and slammed the door on the Irish healthcare system.

Six months later I was on a plane to see one of the top doctors in the US, and knew I wouldn't regret a thing. I met the doctor in a serene clinic in Washington DC, and he greeted me with a hug. Already I had more confidence, even though I was paying a huge price for it.

Two hours with the doctor included an examination, a comprehensive survey of my entire medical history since birth (mental, physical and sexual) and a consultation. As it turns out, I also walked away with a surgery plan and diagnosis. After three years, I got my hope back in two hours. I'd have paid millions if I had it, and it was worth every cent. I booked the surgery for a few months later, and organised time off work. Then I booked my flights to New York, packed my bags and brought two family members who would take care of me for the four week recovery. Three of those weeks were spent holed up, unable to move, in a New Jersey Airbnb. After the surgery, my doctor (who has a stellar reputation and has carried out over 800 of these surgeries) said that endometriosis was mysteriously found during the procedure. He exclaimed that it was the first time he'd ever seen it in one of his patients, and that it was in an extremely rare place which no other doctor of his type would have been able to remove except him. He's full of confidence in himself, but he's right to be this way. He gives women their lives back and sees them go on to live without pain and to be able to have children and happy, healthy relationships. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I pushed aside my surprise about this setback, and focused on my nerve removal surgery recovery. Six gruelling weeks later, I had watched enough Netflix to power a large, densely populated city and was ready to fly back to New York for my check-up. I brought the laparoscopy from the Mater Private one year previously along with me for my surgeon to inspect. He had sent off the tissue to the pathology department, who were baffled by this and said they disagreed with his diagnosis. They had no suggestion for what it could be, despite the fact that the tissue looks exactly like endometriosis lesions. For those who aren't aware, endometriosis lesions look like black gunpowder rings. (Kind of like something from Stranger Things.)

My surgeon and a gynaecologist both examined my Irish scans and immediately pointed out the disease in the images, thus diagnosing me with the illness. It's safe to say I am not impressed with the Mater, but I also feel let down by nearly every doctor who saw me. I went to a GP with this pain over 15 times (5 separate GPs, I might add), visited three Irish hospitals on numerous occasions, flew to the UK multiple times to see professors in the chronic pain field and was misdiagnosed. I am now on a progesterone pill, which will hopefully suppress my symptoms, and am investigating whether the endometriosis is in my bladder. Yet how can I trust what results I am given in the Irish healthcare system, after this? 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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There is so much left to be done, when it comes to this illness. In terms of funding, it is increasingly shown that male pleasure trumps female pain; research of erectile dysfunction receives more funding than every female pain disorder combined, despite the fact that one-in-three women will experience this at some stage.

A blood test is currently in the works to discover endometriosis without having to undergo a flawed keyhole surgery. Amazingly, a new pill is being trialled which could potentially cure the lesions themselves, according to scientists at Washington School of Medicine.  It's only early days; the drug has been tested on mice, but it's hoped the human trials will present similar findings. The antibiotics could potentially cure or reverse the effects of endometriosis, essentially ending the pain of millions of women. While I wish this pill could have been available three years ago, I will still stand up for myself to demand access to this treatment, I will still research the side effects and long term tested effects doggedly, and I will still never stop questioning every detail a doctor tells me. It could change your life, even if they call you hysterical.

Feature image credit: Flickr/@P_I_O_T_R

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 A 'Rats Out of the HSE' protest took place today outside the Department of Health's office in Dublin, following a leak of patient information.

The woman had legally obtained an abortion, but was then phoned and harassed by anti-abortion groups, according to TheJournal.ie

The protesters were calling for better protection of confidential patient information and for an external investigation to be launched after last week's data breaches.

Roughly 12 people took part in the protest at lunchtime, carrying placards and holding cut-out rat masks at Miesian Plaza.

A number of investigations were launched last week into the shocking claims.

A woman had an abortion at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, otherwise known as Holles Street, and was later verbally abused over the phone by a man who had somehow obtained her personal information.

On Friday, anti-abortion protesters stated that they were given information on when abortions were scheduled to occur at Our Lady Of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Councillor Éilis Ryan of The Workers’ Party has said the HSE needed to clearly explain the steps it had taken to ensure that staff were providing abortion services in a trustworthy, fair and transparent manner.

"It doesn’t seem that any thought was put into how to change the culture of our hospitals to ensure people who might have anti-choice feelings themselves are not biased in how they carry out their healthcare provision”.

Her worry regarding the ability of our healthcare services to adapt without bias is felt by many.

Health Minister Simon Harris has admitted that an internal probe will take place, but “given the scale of scandals linking to the HSE in recent years we don’t feel that an internal investigation can be trusted or is sufficient”, according to Ryan.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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She feels that Gabriel Scally is trustworthy, after he carried out the Cervical Check screening programme review.

Simon Harris said on Friday  that it was “extraordinarily concerning and disturbing” that a patient’s details of her own abortion could possibly become public.

"The idea that anybody might leak a woman’s confidential information is reprehensible, it is grotesque, it’s disgusting and that is why I asked the HSE yesterday to investigate the matter and report back."

The HSE, the Dublin Well Woman Clinic, the National Maternity Hospital and the Data Protection Commissioner are apparently making inquiries regarding the apparent incident. 

Cover image: Twitter/@michelledevane

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Picketing officially began this morning for the nurses' strike, which is only the second time in 100 years that the group have carried out work stoppages.

According to The Journal, three-quarters of Irish people support the nurse's 24-hour strike, which is being carried out over an apparent recruitment and retention issue.

Nurses and midwives across the county will be out on the picket line today, fighting for pay and better working conditions at hospitals and private clinics nationwide.

Nursing unions are seeking pay parity with other health service grades, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has announced that talks which were held at the Labour Court on Monday night did not lead to any breakthroughs.

The INMO has over 40,000 members, and announced the strikes earlier in January. Over 90 percent of members which were polled voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot held in November.

According to nurses, increasing their pay is the only way to retain nurses, and this would improve working conditions, as well as the recruitment and retention crisis among members.

The government has expressed it's concern over pay rises for nurses outside of the broader public sector pay agreement reached last year, and has refused to give in to the nurses' demands.

The strikes have gone ahead after the Labour Court claimed it would not intervene in the dispute in a formal way, as the government are anxious that other industries will also request pay rises if the nurses obtain their requested 12 percent rise.

A Claire Byrne LiveTheJournal.ie poll of 1,000 adults by Amárach Research found huge support for the nurses' action, with 74 percent of participants expressing agreement with the 24-hour strike. 

Only 17 percent said no, while 9 percent were unsure.

Members of the public have been requested by the HSE only to attend emergency services in hospitals if it is totally necessary.

Liam Woods, HSE national director of acute operations, commented; “We would appeal that patients would only attend the emergency services if absolutely essential."

In emergencies, there will be an emergency response, and any patients whose appointments or surgeries have been cancelled will achieve priority in the weeks following the strike.

The INMO has also said that further strikes will take place on the February 5 and 7, and then February 12, 13 and 14 if an agreement cannot be reached. 

Feature image: Limerick Leader

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If you require abortion information or help, please be careful about fake websites.

The HSE has issued a warning about a bogus website which is imitating the newly launched MyOptions website. 

The official MyOptions web page is run by the HSE and provides correct information about abortion services available in the Republic of Ireland.

A freephone line was also established by the HSE with trained professional counsellors on the other end.

You can find the helpline phone number through the MyOptions.ie web page.

However, a bogus MyOptions has surfaced online when users search for the free helpline. 

The fake site reads: "Call us now and book a free ultrasound if you are thinking about termination and need to know how far pregnant you are and all you need to know to be fully informed.”  

It includes an Irish mobile number listed under the contact information and an email address.

The site is linked to an anonymous Facebook page, which began sharing anti-abortion videos in May 2018.

A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed that the website isn't linked in anyway to the official MyOptions helpline or website.

“We are aware of a number of websites and ads that are appearing in search results and social media that claim to be providing unplanned pregnancy support services under variations of the myoptions name,” the spokesperson stated. 

The spokesperson added that unreliable agencies mightn't be "upfront" about their motivation behind the information they are providing people.

“Some unreliable agencies may not be upfront about their intentions and may try to influence a person’s decision. The HSE recommends that people should only visit a recognised or HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency,” they said.

“If people are looking at information online, look for the HSE logo.”

They added that the correct freephone number for people seeking information about their options is 1800 828 010. 

The HSE has released a number of warning signs that usually means the source you've sought help and information from, is unreliable.

These include extended periods of time between appointments, meeting in public places such as a hotel or car park and a delay in pregnancy test results.

Your results should be provided to you immediately.

If you receive information or leaflets with limited information and it contains negative or frightening language, is another indication.

Lastly it you are shown inappropriate media such as pictures and videos during counselling sessions is a big red flag, as they are used to sway a woman's choice. 

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New figures have revealed a staggering amount of young people are waiting for mental health appointments.

According to data gathered by the Health Service Executive (HSE), 2,691 children and young adults are currently waiting to be given an appointment.

And it is a long wait. Over 380 of those on the list have not been able to get an appointment for over 12 months.

The shocking news was pointed out by Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on mental health, James Browne.

According to The Irish Mirror, the TD attributed the impacted appointment list to “major service gaps” in overlooked areas of the country, including Cork and Kerry.

“Telling GPs to refer children and young adults to Emergency Departments is wholly inappropriate,” he explained.

“For the past two years, we have consistently heard from the HSE that they are having trouble in terms of recruiting and retaining mental health professionals."

He went on to call the situation a “a stain on its [the State’s] legacy”.

“In all too many EDs, there is no access to CAMHS professionals, and it is not fair on the patients and their families."

Not only is the situation “not fair” for young people, but the increased waiting times can put children at risk if they have serious mental health issues that require immediate access to professional advice.

Mental health has been a rising issue, especially among younger generations and is now the number one workplace illness for millenials.

Hopefully, the State will find a way to reduce the lengthy wait times and ensure that young people’s mental health is made a priority.

"This is simply not acceptable at a time when everyone is talking, quite rightly, about the need for all people to talk openly and honestly about their mental health," the TD urged.

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The HSE has revealed that 221 women have been affected by the cervical screening scandal. They shared that the figure jumped from 209 to 221 after an additional 12 cases were confirmed.

HSE Director General John Conaghan shared the new figure with the Public Accounts Committee this morning.

It was also revealed that a review of the affected women’s smear tests has not yet started. The review of over 3,000 smear tests was meant to be completed by May.

The review will be carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians as well as the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.
It was also shared that nearly 40 women have taken a cases against the HSE. Only three cases have been settled so far.

There are currently 35 active cases against the HSE.

Terminally-ill Emma Mhic Mhathúna recently settled her case against the HSE and a lab in the US. The mum-of-five’s case was settled for €7.5 million.

Mum-of-two Vicky Phelan also settled her case for €2.5 million.

Both mums were given incorrect smear test results, delaying their cervical cancer diagnosis.

The Cervical Check controversy has affected thousands of women in Ireland. They were not informed about a clinical audit that was carried out on their results.

It is believed that some of the woman affected by the scandal could have benefited from an early diagnosis.

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Director General of the Health Service Executive (HSE) Tony O'Brien will resign from his position following the CervicalCheck cancer misdiagnosis.

Mr O’Brien's resignation will come into effect this evening, Friday, May 11.

In a HSE statement released yesterday, the Director-General said his decision came:

“In order to avoid any further impact to the delivery of health and social care services, and in particular the cancer screening services that have become the focus of intense political debate in recent days.”

Mr O’Brien added that in spite of “the clear communication failures surrounding the CervicalCheck Audits,” he is “confident” that on the completion of the Scally Review, the value and quality of the CervicalCheck Programme will be shown.

The HSE statement said  “he looks forward to engaging with the Review” and he will provide his full cooperation to the preliminary inquiry headed by Dr Gabriel Scally.

It finished with Mr O'Brien saying he was proud to lead the health services and the many staff who have worked tirelessly and with great dedication to provide health and social care services in a very challenging environment.

He emphasised that he remains deeply committed to health reform in Ireland and in particular the full implementation of the Slainte Care Report. He reinforced his support for Minister Harris in this regard.

Upon hearing Mr O'Brien's decision last night, Minister for Health Simon Harris said:

"I would like to express my thanks to Tony O'Brien for his many years of dedicated public service." 

"I know that he is standing down from his role today because he believes it is in the best interest of rebuilding public confidence in the wake of the issues which have arisen in CervicalCheck (Ireland's national screening programme).

"Tomorrow, the Cabinet meeting will again discuss this matter and the further measures which can be put in place to care for and support the women and families affected," he added.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the move "is a necessary first step in achieving accountability".

"It is regrettable that it ultimately took terminally ill women taking to the national airwaves to demand that Mr O'Brien be held to account in order to secure his resignation," she said in a statement.

Mr O’Brien step-down from his position comes after the Cervical Check system was called into question by some after it was revealed that 209 women who later developed cervical cancer had the same missed smear test as Vicky Phelan.

Ms Phelan was wrongly told she was cancer-free following a cervical screening in 2011. The mum-of-two wasn't diagnosed for another three years.

Pressure further mounted on him to resign as earlier this week, a mother of five Emma Mhic Mathuna took to the airways to deliver a powerful interview on RTÉ radio about being one of the 209 women and how her cancer is terminal.

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10,731 women have contacted an emergency helpline set up by the HSE over concerns raised by the recent CervicalCheck controversy. 

It's understood that thousands of women have requested re-checks after an audit revealed how 209 women were not told about inaccuracies in their results. 

The HSE confirmed last night that it has returned 1,406 calls so far, while 198 of the first group of 209 women have been contacted. 

The IMO's Dr Padraig McGarry says GPs are determined that women have their concerns addressed. .

"There's the repeat smear which is offered to patients who feel that they need it, but there's also the consultation around that because there's a lot of questions that women would like to ask their GPs and get reassurances and that's a time requirement," he said.

"We are delighted to see that this paves the way for women who have such concerns to access them without any financial burden."

 The CervicalCheck helpline can be reached on 1800 45 45 55.

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An audit has revealed how 12 women may have died as a result of cervical smear testing errors, RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland reports.

It also showed that half of the 206 women affected by the inaccuracies were not told that they may have a delayed diagnosis. 

The report comes after Vicky Phelan's incorrect cancer result highlighted failings in the CervicalCheck programme. 

Her case came to light after the 43-year-old mother-of-two was awarded €2.5m by the High Court. The HSE had sought a confidentiality clause with Ms Phelan as part of the settlement, which she refused. 

Speaking on the Ray D'Arcy Show on RTÉ 1 over the weekend, Vicky revealed how Health Minister Simon Harris had called her to personally apologise for what had happened. 

"As soon as I heard the voice I knew who it was and he said 'hi Vicky, it is Simon Harris here'," Ms Phelan explained.

"'I just wanted to call you personally to apologise for what has happened to you but he also wanted to thank me for still encouraging women to go for smears and for promoting the Cervical screening programme' he said."

Meanwhile, pharmacist and Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell says she "would not be surprised" if more women died as as result of the scandal. 

"Five year undetected pre-cancerous cells, you're looking at 30-40% of the women not surviving," she said

"So if cervical cancer is not detected the outcomes are very bad. I expect that number to grow, quite frankly, I do expect it to be definitely double digits."

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The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are today advising consumers to be vigilant for counterfeit ‘high-end’ beauty products on sale through certain outlets, markets and websites in the lead up to Christmas.

Tests carried out by the HSE on a number of the 728 counterfeit and imitation products that the HPRA has detained, identifies some contain harmful substances, such as arsenic and lead, which can be potentially harmful to people’s health. Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner and Urban Decay were among some of the forged cosmetic brands which were found to contain these illegal substances.

The counterfeit products detained by the HPRA include, Kylie Holiday-Burgundy and Bronze eyeshadow palettes, Kylie Matte liquid lipstick and lip liner, and Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes.

The HPRA warns that the Christmas season is the peak time of year for rogue sellers of counterfeit products and shoppers are strongly urged to avoid these potentially harmful products.

The HPRA states that over the past few months significant quantities of counterfeit and imitation cosmetics have been seized on entry to the country by Revenue’s Customs Service.

The majority of counterfeit cosmetic products seized have been eye-shadows and lip products. Some of these products can be purchased online from websites based outside of the EU and are being sold to Irish consumers online and through social media. They have also been found in some trade shows and at markets throughout the country.

Aoife Farrell, Cosmetics Compliance Manager, HPRA, states:“The HPRA is extremely concerned that highly toxic substances, such as arsenic and lead, have been detected in products which are available to Irish consumers."

"Prolonged exposure to both of these banned substances can severely damage your health causing potential harm to your brain and kidneys, among other organs. The suppliers of these products are unconcerned about the health of the consumers who purchase them."

"We can’t emphasise enough the need for consumers to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics this Christmas; while they may be sold at a cheaper cost than legitimate beauty products, it is never worth gambling with your health when buying these products.”

 “As well as the possible toxic ingredients which may be contained in counterfeit cosmetics, the way the products are manufactured and the safety and cleanliness of the production environment is unknown, which is another reason to avoid purchasing and using these cosmetics at all cost.”

The HPRA highlights that the genuine Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner are currently only available from the company’s website in the USA, and other genuine high-end cosmetic products are usually only available through high street stores or pharmacies.

he HPRA and the HSE advise extreme caution if consumers are offered such products at markets or through non-reputable websites. In Ireland, the market surveillance of cosmetic products is carried out by the HPRA and Environmental Health Service and Public Analysts’ Laboratories of the HSE.

“Beauty brands usually list their licensed retailers on their websites and this is an easy way for consumers to ensure that they are purchasing a genuine cosmetic product. If a product is much cheaper than in a high street store or pharmacy, consumers should be immediately suspicious and think twice before buying the beauty product,” Ms Farrell advised.

 

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According to a report in The Irish Times, the Health Service Executive has seen an increase in the number of girls availing of the HPV vaccine this year.

It is understood that the figure has risen from 50 percent to 61 percent – a welcome result following a successful campaign, backed by the World Health Organisation, to promote the vaccine.

Concerns regarding its safety resulted in a sharp drop in the number of school-age girls getting vaccinated, decreasing from 87 per cent in the 2014/2015 school year to 50 per cent last year.

In September of this year, following remarks made by Phonsie Cullinan, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, on the reliability of the HPV vaccine, two Ministers advised the Church to exclude themselves from current medical debate.

Highlighting Bishop Cullinane's lack of medical qualifications, Minister Simon Harris said: “I don’t want to get into a spat with anybody, bishop or no bishop, but at the end of the day the people qualified to give medical advice on vaccinations are doctors and, funnily enough, not bishops.”

Minister John Halligan made reference to the Church's hugely contentious reputation, saying: "Religion has no place in medical debate and the Catholic Church’s track record on the medical welfare of Irish women speaks for itself."

Today, Minister Harris took to Twitter to celebrate the work done by all those involved in the campaign, writing: "Proud to work with many dedicated people in @HSELive & HPV Alliance to bring this about."

Director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien,called the increase in the number of recipients 'encouraging'.

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Less than 400 people died by suicide in Ireland in 2016, the lowest rates in more than 20 years.

However, while overall levels are down, figures from the National Self-Harm Registry have shown that there was an increase of 6.2 per cent in suicide rates among Irish women, with the biggest rise seen in women over the age of 35.

Rates among men have dropped by 15.2 per cent overall, however, a slight increase was noted in 55-64 year old males.

Figures supplied to the HSE also revealed that the rate of suicide among Irish teenagers is below the European average.

This is in contrast to a recent report that suggested Ireland had the fourth highest rate of teen suicide in the EU region, but according to HSE chief, Tony O'Brien, it is “important to note that this data related to 2010.”

Speaking about the overall 11.5 per cent drop, HSE director for mental health, Anne O'Connor, suggested it was the result of  “a more positive conversation” around the issue.  

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