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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8921


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (19:42): Tonight I rise tonight to pay tribute to a great Australian and, more particularly, a great Western Australian: Professor Dr Anthony McCartney. Dr McCartney was a godsend to women in Australia and globally. Why? Because he was a pioneer in gynaecological cancer care and because he gave hope and, indeed, life to so many ovarian and gynaecological cancer patients, both here and around the world. Dr McCartney was a father of four children—John, Caroline, Clare and Tom—and the loving husband of Jacinta. He passed away on 22 October 2011, aged 70, after a brief battle with cancer. He is someone who gave decades of tireless, selfless and dedicated professional service to his community and had genuine concern and compassion for ordinary human beings and in his specialist field gave so much to women.

Dr McCartney was the recipient of a special award from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for services to gynaecology and the treatment of cancer in women. After a long and highly distinguished career, he was, in 2007, appointed as the inaugural Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle. In 2008, the Australian Medical Association bestowed on Dr McCartney a Hippocratic Award for his dedicated and distinguished services in gynaecological cancer surgery. He was a finalist for WA Senior of the Year in 2008.

What was so inspiring about Dr McCartney was that he worked tirelessly and gave his all to his patients, right up until the week before he died. Dr McCartney was the first doctor in Australia to train as a specialist in gynaecological oncology. After training in New York, Dr McCartney, along with Dr Victor White, founded the Western Australian Gynaecologic Cancer Service, which was then located at the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in Perth. This important and life-saving cancer service has expanded across Perth and is now available at Hollywood Private Hospital as well as St John of God hospitals in Murdoch and Subiaco.

To say that Dr McCartney was a trailblazer and a brilliant innovator when it came to gynaecological cancer does not do justice to what this gifted man did for women with these potentially life-threatening conditions. Professor McCartney's work is internationally renowned and inspired other professionals around the world to follow his lead. In addition to his extensive medical training, Dr McCartney thought outside the box and in doing so invented a device and a new approach to treating early stage cancer of the lining of the uterus resulting in less tissue damage, less blood loss, less pain and a shorter stay in hospital. This innovative piece of medical equipment was heralded as Dr McCartney's most substantial contribution to gynaecology. It was a device known as the McCartney tube, developed after he turned his attention to developing new ways to perform laparoscopic surgery in the early 1990s.

The McCartney tube revolutionised the way hysterectomies and keyhole vaginal surgeries were performed, allowing complicated laparoscopic work to be performed more easily. Motivated by wanting to make surgery less complicated for doctors and recovery easier and faster for women, he invented the tube-shaped implement, made from polypropylene with a liquid silicone rubber cap, which gave doctors better access for surgery and provided other benefits like reduced blood loss as well as reduced risk and lower pain levels for patients post surgery.

The McCartney tube also made work on cancers simpler. Endometrial cancer patients were found to have a lower rate of infection if they had been operated on by a surgeon using the tube rather than by means of open surgery. The patients also had shorter stays in hospital and were able to resume normal activities far more quickly. Just as importantly, Dr McCartney was the first doctor to remove major tumours as part of the management of advanced ovarian cancer. Patents for the tube have been granted all over the world, including in New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, Vietnam, Japan and across Europe.

Dr McCartney also supported and was involved in the Women and Infants Research Foundation and its activities. What is often most critical for a doctor, especially for the very personal nature of gynaecological surgery, is bedside manner. In the many public acknowledgements recognising the dedicated professionalism of Dr McCartney, the one thing that appeared over and over again on news pages, on blogs and in articles about Dr McCartney was the message that he truly cared about each and every patient he attended to. Patient after patient has paid testimony to Dr McCartney on a tribute website set up in his honour. One says:

Thank you for your patience, kindness and reassurance over the past five years as one of your many very grateful patients. You were a kind and gentle man. Whilst I never looked forward to my visits to your surgery, I always came away with a smile and a positive outlook.

Another says:

In respectful memory of Dr McCartney, whom I first met on Melbourne Cup Day 1992 at SJOG—

St John of God—

I still remember—as I waited in my nervousness—him popping in and out of the waiting room varyingly to take interest in the Cup on TV, give a new Mum and bub a congratulatory hug, and to escort patient after patient like they were long lost friends. When it was my turn, he greeted me as if I was the very first person in his very busy day. Tony, thankyou for all your consistent care and carefulness over 19 years.

Leisa Munro and Kara Garratt said in their message of remembrance:

Tony, you will forever be remembered by the many women whose lives you saved—one being our Mums. Your genuine kindness and caring will not be forgotten. We are eternally grateful.

And Denise wrote:

You came into my life, saved my life, touched my heart and gave me the greatest gift of all. The chance to watch my daughter grow up, hand over heart, thank you and goodbye.

As reported in the West Australian newspaper on 24 October 2011:

Cancer survivor and former patient Norma Hutchins, who was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2006, said Dr McCartney was willing to take on cases others might shy away from.

"He was an absolutely amazing surgeon—he was a wonderful man" …

"He would walk out of his surgery with his arm around you."

Ovarian Cancer Australia has also paid tribute to Dr McCartney on its website.

After retiring from work at King Edward Memorial Hospital in 2007 after 31 years service there, Dr McCartney continued as Head of Gynaecologic Oncology at St John of God Hospital in Subiaco. Dr McCartney saved the lives of so many women and he trained doctors from Europe, the UK and Australia after the establishment of a program at King Edward Memorial Hospital. Trainees are still learning how to perform surgery there today, 23 years after the training centre was founded.

It is a testament to his success and his dedication that his procedures and the McCartney tube continue to be used all over the world. I am pleased to say that the McCartney Gynaecological Cancer Research and Education Fund has been established to commemorate the life and work of Professor Tony McCartney. I am proud to say Professor McCartney was a Western Australian. I am, like all women, indebted to his dedication to his work and to advancing specialist techniques and methods of surgery. I know that his enormous legacy will live on through the work of the many doctors he has trained and the many, many lives that he touched and the lives that he saved.

In closing, I would like to quote one more obituary published online by the West Australian newspaper:

McCARTNEY (Anthony): Tony McCartney, treasured husband of Jacinta, beloved father of John, Caroline, Clare and Tom, passed peacefully at his home on the morning of 22nd of October 2011 surrounded by his adoring family. We will remember his passion for life, joyful sense of humour, his endless generosity and dedication to helping others. He will remain with us always. "Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality."