Health Reform and Cancer

There is a very interesting opinion in the Wall Street Journal this morning that bears reading for anyone that is interested in both sides of the conversation on universal health care.  I am reproducing key parts that I thought were most interesting.  Click through to read the entire page.

As is obvious by Ms. Ulfik’s opinion, patients should have a real concern about any change to their insurance and the way the “system” works.  While the US may have a large number of uninsured, we lead the world in innovation within medical and pharmaceutical technology.

Every cancer patient needs these things, especially hope. But the government’s plan to reform the health-care system in this country threatens all of this—particularly the development of new treatments.

 

Three years later the lymphoma was back and I faced more chemo. This is so often the pattern of cancer: recurring disease and repeated chemo. In the end patients often die not from the disease, but from the treatments.

 

But I couldn’t get the vaccine because the Food and Drug Administration required another trial that would take nine more years. Over-regulation has kept this treatment from patients for 21 years, as some 24,000 lymphoma patients died each year.

My husband and I searched the Internet and found another vaccine being tested at Freiburg University in Germany. That vaccine has helped me avoid chemotherapy for years. My oncologist says he’s never seen another patient do so well with the type of lymphoma I have.

 

Patient-as-person will be a lost concept under the new health-care plan, where treatments will be based not upon individual patient needs, but upon what’s best for everyone. So cancer drugs for seniors might take second place to jungle gyms and farmers’ markets—so-called preventive care—which are covered under both the and versions of the health bill.

 

Tom Daschle, Mr. Obama’s original pick to head Health and Human Services, argues in his book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis,” that we should accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments.” Mr. Daschle blames the “use and overuse of new technologies and treatments” for runaway health-care costs. He suggests a Federal Health Board modeled after the British “NICE” board to make decisions on health-care rationing.

But the British system is infamous for denying state-of-the-art drugs to cancer patients. Thus cancer-survival rates in Britain are far below those in America, just as they are in .

 

A number of Quebeckers even sued their government for violating their “right to life and security” under the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada’s Supreme Court has acknowledged the pervasive rationing that occurs. In the 2005 case Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) , the majority opinion stated: “The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”

 

Cancer patients need nothing more than such innovation. Yes, developing more effective, less toxic treatments is expensive. The prices of new cancer therapies reflect the billion-dollar cost of developing each new drug. But such treatments can be life-saving, as they have been for me.

 

The number of Americans who have cancer exceeds 10 million. It’s time for cancer patients and their families to remind those on Capitol Hill that health-care reform is a matter of life and death for us.

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