NZ Supreme Court Ruling June 2018.

In Summary:

  • Five judges in total.
  • One judge ruled fluoridation to be legal – no problems.
  • Chief Justice Sian Elias ruled fluoridation illegal, including violating Section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act – Right to refuse to undergo medical treatment.
  • Two judges ruled it violated Section 11 but was justified under Section 5 – Rights can be limited if it is ” demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.  
  • The fifth judge also ruled it violated section 11 but there was insufficient evidence on whether the limitation was justified.
  • Therefore, fluoridation does violate section 11 but is not illegal. 


See below, our press release, newsletter, an additional explanation by Prof Paul Connett. Also see “Can people sue our councils or DHBs for fluoridating the water?”

Press Release sent 29th June 2018

Water fluoridation is compulsory mass medication, in breach of human rights, the Supreme Court has ruled by a majority vote. It confirmed that fluoridation is a medical treatment as claimed by opponents for over 60 years. It is not a supplement “just topping up natural levels”, as claimed by the Ministry of Health.

The impracticality of avoiding fluoridated water makes it compulsory in practice, the majority also ruled.

Three judges held that there was conflicting scientific evidence, confirming that the science is NOT settled.

Chief Justice Sian Elias then held that fluoridation was not prescribed by law, applying section 6 of the Bill of Rights Act, and was therefore unlawful as it breached section 11. That was the correct decision in Fluoride Free NZ’s view.

The rest of the majority held that it was prescribed by law, and it was then necessary to apply a balancing test to determine if the breach of the right – not to be subject to medical treatment without consent – was justified in the case of fluoridation.

Justice Glazebrook held that it was for a local authority to do this when making its decision, potentially taking into account specific local circumstances.

On the balance of information before the Court – the misinformation promulgated by promoters that water fluoridation measurably reduces tooth decay and presents no real health risk – two judges held that it was justifiable. This is despite the court reiterating that it is now accepted that benefit for fluoride is from topical application, not from ingestion.

The Court did not consider information published since the original High Court case, and the recent US Government multi-million-dollar study by Bashash et al, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, carried out by top scientists and researchers in top North American universities – had not yet been published. This study found that children exposed to fluoride at the same levels as New Zealanders had significantly reduced IQ, which could easily have shifted the Justices’ perception of safety.

Importantly, the Court held that this question of whether fluoridation is justifiable is to be determined on the balance of probabilities. There is no requirement for absolute proof of harm, as long-maintained by the Ministry of Health. As a question of fact, the two judges’ conclusion is not binding on any lower court or any statutory decision maker. With the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that water fluoridation is ineffective and poses significant health risks, this opens the door to end the practice at any time.

The majority held that tooth decay was a condition in the community that a local council could address (through fluoridation) under section 23 of the Health Act. It necessarily follows that any aspect of health in the community, good or bad, must also fall under section 23. This includes the current IQ level of inhabitants. Therefore a local council is required to protect that condition under section 23. So if, on the balance of probabilities, water fluoridation reduces IQ significantly – and half a standard deviation (5 points on the scale used in recent studies) is significant – a council must not implement fluoridation, and in fact must cease it if it is currently in place. Arguably, this mandatory requirement would override any direction that a District Health Board might give a council under the proposed legislation currently before Parliament.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled fluoridation is medical treatment without consent, and with the mounting evidence that it is ineffective and carries significant health risks, it is time for politicians and the health sector to rethink the practice. Its days are clearly numbered following this judgment.

New Health New Zealand Incorporated v South Taranaki District Council  NXSC(59)
(99) “…we find that fluoridation of drinking water is the provision of medical treatment. It involves the provision of a pharmacologically active substance for the purpose of treating those who ingest it for dental decay. We agree with the Courts below that people who live or work in areas where fluoridation occurs have no practical option but to ingest the fluoride added to the water. So the treatment is compulsory.”


Explanation in FFNZ newsletter 30th June 2018

Most of you will have heard that the Supreme Court Ruling on the Appeal by New Health New Zealand, This Appeal resulted in two judgements. The second one (NSC60) held that whether or not fluoridation chemicals should come under the regulations of the Medicines Act was moot, as Medsafe had been given an exemption for fluoridation chemicals if they are added to the drinking water.

The first one (NSC59) dealt with whether or not councils had a legal right to add fluoridation chemicals to the drinking water. Chief Justice Sian Elias said they didn’t, but the other four judges thought they did. However, the important point is that all judges, except Judge William Young, ruled that fluoridation was a medical treatment, and that if a person lives or works in a fluoridated area it is compulsory medication and therefore it breached Section 11 of the Bill of Rights Act. Section 11 – “Everyone has the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment”.

So why does this not make fluoridation illegal? The judges then went on to look at Section 5 which is about “Justified limitations” and says “Subject to section 4, the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Section 4 is about “Other Enactments” which says that other laws override the Bill of Rights. But two of the judges argued that fluoridation was justified under Section 5. They say they are not able to weigh up the benefits and risks, so they rely on the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation, who say there are benefits and no risks. One judge ruled that this was a balancing that each decision maker had to make at the time, potentially taking local circumstances into account. But all three agreed the balancing question needed to be addressed.

So we are back to everyone, including the highest court of the land, allowing fluoridation because the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation say it’s okay. This is in spite of the fact that most of the world does not practice fluoridation – even though the WHO says it is good – and the decision makers in the Ministry of Health are a handful of people who have been promoting fluoridation most of their professional careers, so are unlikely to change their mind.

Where does that leave us? The fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that fluoridation is compulsory medical treatment means the proponents can never again spin the PR line that they are “just topping up the natural levels”. Hallelujah! Thank you New Health New Zealand for initiating this great leap forward. It also leaves us where we were before, in that we need hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders to understand this issue – so the few policy advisors within the Ministry of Health can no longer wield such great power so irresponsibly.


Additional Information by Prof Paul Connett PhD, Executive Director, FAN USA

Some of our readers were puzzled yesterday by FAN NZ broadcasting the Supreme Court verdict on fluoridation as a victory rather than a defeat. After all the Supreme court ruled against the plaintiffs (New Health New Zealand) in their efforts to prevent South Taranaki from fluoridating its water.

Let me explain, in my view, this is a classic case of losing a battle but winning the war.

In this case, the war is over the ethics of fluoridation. For opponents of fluoridation, this practice violates the individual’s right to medical or human treatment. For proponents the counter-argument has been that fluoride is not a medicine and fluoridation is not a medical treatment. Proponents further argue that even if fluoride was a medicine people are not forced to drink the fluoridated water.

In the following two paragraphs (99 and 100) in the Supreme court ruling it is clear that the judges side with opponents on this matter and this finding will have huge ramifications worldwide. In other words it is a huge victory for us. Meanwhile, proponents will celebrate their local victory.

Applying this approach, we find that fluoridation of drinking water is the provision of medical treatment. It involves the provision of a pharmacologically active substance for the purpose of treating those who ingest it for dental decay. We agree with the Courts below that people who live or work in areas where fluoridation occurs have no practical option but to ingest the fluoride added to the water. So the treatment is compulsory. While drinking water from a tap is not an activity that would normally be classified as undergoing medical treatment, we do not consider that ingesting fluoride added to water can be said to be qualitatively different from ingesting a fluoride tablet provided by a health practitioner.


We conclude that fluoridation of drinking water requires those drinking the water to undergo medical treatment in circumstances where they are unable to refuse to do so. Subject to s5, therefore, s11 of the Bill of Rights Act is engaged.

To see how that local victory was won you will have to read the paragraphs 101 – 144 in the ruling. But basically, they argue that the individual right to informed consent to medication (section 11 of the NZ Bill or Rights) may in certain circumstances be over-ridden by the interests of the larger community (see section 5). However, the judges somewhat undermined these arguments by earlier acknowledging in paragraph 10 that the benefits of fluoridation are largely topical, and as such allowing individuals the right to informed consent in this case would not deprive the rest of society of fluoride’s perceived benefits since there is universal access to fluoridated toothpaste.

Another important point is that when the issue was being heard the US-government funded study by Bashash et al., 2017 had not been published. Had the judges known about this important and rigorous study, it is questionable whether they would they have felt it was in the interests of the larger community to support a practice which would lower the IQ of its children?”


Leading up to this Supreme Court Ruling was the original High Court Ruling and then the Appeal Court Ruling.

High Court Ruling 2014

Appeal Court Ruling 2016