Yesterday the Hawke’s Bay DHB heard a presentation from its Principal Dental Officer (David Marshall), and strongly and unanimously reaffirmed its support for fluoridation of public water supplies. Not a peep of opposition was heard, as each Board member voiced his or her full support.
For the DHB, fluoridation is a no-brainer. Here’s their position …
“the Board has a responsibility to obtain the best possible health outcomes for the people of Hawke’s Bay and … where dental health is concerned the fluoridation of public water supplies is the single most beneficial measure available.” And …
HBDHB should advise Local Authorities that “they have a duty of care especially to children to improve dental health by fluoridating public water supplies as advised by the HBDHB and the Ministry of Health.” [Editor: italics added.]
DHB Chair Kevin Atkinson commented that the DHB didn’t have the authority under current law to itself make the decision to add fluoride. That authority lies with territorial bodies.
Nevertheless, it was clear that the DHB intends its decision to serve as a full broadside delivered to the Hastings District Council, which will receive a citizens’ petition at today’s (24 February) Council meeting asking that fluoridation be stopped. On 5 April, the HDC will hear presentations on the matter from anti-fluoride activists (including international expert Dr Paul Connett), as well as representatives of the DHB.
How strong a broadside was intended?
I think it’s noteworthy that the DHB resolution asserts that the Local Authorities have a “duty of care” to improve dental health through fluoridation. “Duty of care” is a common law term of art referring, according to one definition, to “the legal obligation to adhere to a standard of reasonable care when performing any act that could foreseeably cause harm to others.”
As I read it, the DHB has thrown down the gauntlet, implying to Hastings Councillors that they might be legally vulnerable if they choose to disregard the expertise of the public health authority and fail to act as advised to improve dental health by adding fluoride.
Hmmm! Would someone actually take HDC to court if they were deemed to have failed their “duty of care” obligation?
Interesting show of muscle might develop here.
On the other hand, local anti-fluoride activist Angela Hair argues here that it might be the DHB that fails to meet its “duty of care” responsibility.
P.S. Local anti-fluoride activists maintain this website, if you’d care to investigate their point of view.