Public health professor and wind farm advocate Simon Chapman has published a long apology to industrial noise campaigner Sarah Laurie for falsely claiming she had been deregistered as a doctor.
The apology exposes a long-running campaign to discredit Dr Laurie, who has spoken out for residents affected by noise from wind turbines and other industrial sources through the Waubra Foundation.
Dr Laurie welcomed the apology but said Professor Chapman’s personal attacks on her professional integrity were “just one example of a broader strategy employed by the wind industry to denigrate, marginalise and, therefore, exclude from public and political discourse anyone sincerely investigating a worldwide public health issue’’.
Lawyers for Dr Laurie have threatened action against wind industry employees Ken McAlpine, formerly from Vestas, Ketan Joshi from Infigen and Fairfax Media over a tweet first posted by Mr McAlpine in March last year.
Professor Chapman, who is not a medical practitioner, repeated the tweet, which said “NOT DROWNING, RANTING: Deregistered “Dr” Sarah Laurie doesn’t like the medicine dished up by @ama_media Waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/open”.
In his apology, Professor Chapman said the tweet implied that Ms Laurie had given cause to the Medical Board of Australia to deregister her on account of unprofessional conduct, that she was not entitled to use the title “Dr”, and that she did so in contravention of the laws that govern the conduct of medical practitioners.
“These allegations were implied without foundation and are entirely false,” Professor Chapman said.
“Ms Laurie is not deregistered and has never been sanctioned by the Medical Board of Australia.’’
Dr Laurie told a Senate committee into wind turbines and health this year that she graduated from Flinders University with a bachelor of medicine and a bachelor of surgery in 1995 and attained a fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in 1998.
Dr Laurie had been a councillor on the South Australian Medical Association branch but that was prematurely cut short when she was diagnosed with an illness.
Dr Laurie said she was still legally entitled to use the honorific Dr but voluntarily offered not to use it for her work with the Waubra Foundation to prevent members of the public from thinking she was currently registered.
Dr Laurie told a Senate committee she had been “very reluctant to accept that there could be anything wrong (with wind turbines)”.
“I used to take my children to go and watch wind turbines being built locally near our home,” she said. “I had no idea about any adverse health impacts from wind turbines.
“But, when you listen to the stories of people affected by noise when they are trying to sleep in their beds at night, it does not matter what the source of the noise is if they cannot sleep and they are having these other very distressing symptoms and deteriorating health.”
Professor Chapman has been widely criticised for his outspoken advocacy for the wind industry and research, which found complaints about wind turbines were due to a “nocebo” effect.
Senator John Madigan told parliament in June last year that Professor Chapman “obtained his PhD from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, a self-proclaimed expert in marketing and public manipulation via media sources”.
“He is a person who is not lawfully permitted to conduct any form of medical research or study in relation to human health,” Senator Madigan said.
He said Professor Chapman’s undergraduate qualifications were in sociology and his PhD looked into the relationship between cigarette smoke and advertising.
Professor Chapman told the recent Senate inquiry he had “a PhD in medicine and I am a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia”.
He was awarded an Order of Australia for distinguished service to medical research, particularly in the area of public health policy.
Asked about the offending tweet by the Senate committee, he said: “I would regret having retweeted that one, because obviously ‘deregistered’ is incorrect.”
He did not respond to The Australian yesterday.