Panel suggests eliminating expensive cancer treatments that don’t prolong life. We all (some of us, anyway, if not me) want to live forever, but that rarely happens. Go with dignity, but go when your time is up.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – In a move that threatens to further inflame concerns about the rationing of medical care, the nation’s leading association of cancer physicians issued a list on Wednesday of five common tests and treatments that doctors should stop offering to cancer patients.
The list emerged from a two-year effort, similar to a project other medical specialties are undertaking, to identify procedures that do not help patients live longer or better or that may even be harmful, yet are routinely prescribed.
As much as 30 percent of health-care spending goes to procedures, tests, and hospital stays that do not improve a patient’s health, according to a 2008 analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office.
Although the task force emphasized that its recommendations — winnowed from about 10 suggestions by oncologists — were driven by medical considerations, the report makes clear that expense was a major factor. A number of cancer drugs cost nearly $100,000 but extend life a few months or not at all. Widely-used imaging tests cost up to $5,000 yet do not benefit patients.
“The American people have a much higher opinion of doctors than of government bureaucrats,” said Kate Nix, a policy analyst at the free-market Heritage Foundation. Whether the ASCO recommendations to withhold some tests and treatments will be seen as rationing “depends on how they are used. Will they inhibit the ability of doctors and patients to make the best decision in each case?”
I’m okay with denying useless drugs to the dying so long as those who want to spend their own money, impoverish their families, etc. can still do so. The thought of a panel of Dollar Bills dictating my medical care is a disturbing one, though.