I notice so called "cancer experts" are in the news this morning -- something that happens regularly when something as important as health care is politicised. I'm not going to comment on that case this morning, or on what happens when health care is politicised, at least not directly; I'm going to tell you a brief story about some of the "cancer experts" in our government hospitals.
As some of you know, our friend and fellow blogger Annie Fox had a cancer last year that everyone thought would kill her. It didn't. After treatment, about which there can be no complaint, she underwent a year of full-body scans and tests and post-treatment observation to make sure the treatment had been successful.
Early last week she got the all-clear. She was told the treatment programme had been successful, and apart from regular visits to keep an eye on the cancer, she was fine.
She didn't even have time to celebrate. She collapsed that same afternoon with a seizure, and was rushed into hospital.
Turns out that despite the assurances of her "experts" she had a tumour the size of a large marble lodged in her brain. Turns out that those 'full-body scans' to check against the development of other cancers in the body didn't include the head. Why? Because, her family were told when they met with the quacks to find out, "only two percent" of cases like these result in metastases in the brain ... so they don't bother.
Two percent. So they don't bother. Too bad if you or one of your loved ones is one of those two-percent, eh?
People buy lottery tickets and make significant long-term investments based on lesser odds than those, but in "our" government hospitals having a two-percent chance (it's only two-percent, eh) means you get tossed in the medical wastebasket.
You can say that such aggregating of averages is justified (it's only two percent of cancer patients, after all -- fuck 'em). You can say that the health system can't afford such profligacy (if we ration the amount of scanning done, we'll fit under our 'budget cap.' And what about those unfortunate two percent? Oh, fuck 'em). You can even say that the scanning of heads should be minimised due to the risk of scanning the brain -- but, even then, why in hell wouldn't you set up 'proxies' that give you and the patient some idea about what's going on: Proxies paying special attention to symptoms that commonly develop when a person contracts a brain tumour, however minor -- headaches, loss of balance, loss of control of some motor functions, problems with vision, insomnia. Why wouldn't you advise a patient that if any of these did occur they should get their arses back into the quack's office for further investigation?
Why wouldn't you do that? Frankly, I have no idea. After all, I ain't the "expert" here.
Like I said, I'm not going to comment this morning on what happens when health care is politicised, at least not directly. But I have shown you just one story showing what happens when the delivery of health care is decided by rationing.