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.