The Auckland District Health Board has finally apologised to survivors of one of the country's worst medical experiments, the "unfortunate experiment".

In a written statement some 50 years later, the DHB has admitted the experiment run by Professor Herbert Green in the 1960s and 70s led to an early death.

The study followed women with cervical abnormalities but without treating them and without their knowledge or consent.

Senior medical staff at the then National Women's Hospital approved the study, eventually found to have been unethical from an inquiry by Dame Silvia Cartwright in 1987-88.


Her inquiry uncovered a failure to treat the early stages of cervical cancer for patients in the study and also failed in doctors' ethical practices in relation to information sharing and obtaining informed consent.

Former patient Clare Matheson had the apology read to her, saying it was exactly what she wanted it to be, 1News reported.

"It's comprehensive, unqualified, an admission of past mistakes and a firm affirmation to make sure they do not happen again," she said.

"These patients including mothers, sisters, partners, daughters, friends and colleagues ... failed by people they trusted to care for their health and wellbeing.

"In many cases, these voices are no longer with us, but their courageous testimony led to far-reaching forms of patient welfare and rights," the apology reads.