I have seen a couple of stories lately on a radical new last ditch cancer treatment involving extensive surgery and then a 90 minute bath directly on organs of hot chemotherapy. Significant questions remain about efficacy. A column in the NYT discusses the history of severe cancer treatments in history, and concludes with an assertion with which I agree. From “The Annals of Extreme Surgery” by Barron H. Lerner:
Cancer patients and their families, desperate for anything that might work after exhausting all other treatment options, are also part of the problem. But the history of cancer treatment provides a crucial cautionary tale for both those seeking out and those providing heated chemotherapy today. Doing more for cancer patients has often served a cultural as opposed to a scientific purpose, reflecting more the desire to defeat the cancer enemy than to take care of sick patients. Hospitals should offer heated chemotherapy and insurance companies should pay for it only after controlled trials have proved its effectiveness.
In the meantime, we should remember not to conflate our efforts with our achievements.
This isn’t rationing. And it isn’t a quality of life refusal. Experimental treatments should not be automatically covered until proved beneficial. This is what controlled studies are for.