Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

“After Terence died, Flaherty drew me a picture of a bell curve, showing the range of survival times for kidney cancer sufferers. Terence was way off in the tail on the right-hand side, an indication he had indeed beaten the odds. An explosion of research had made it possible to extend lives for years — enough to keep our quest from having been total madness.

Terence used to tell a story, almost certainly apocryphal, about his Uncle Bob. Climbing aboard a landing craft before the invasion of Normandy, so the story went, Bob’s sergeant told the men that by the end of the day, nine out of 10 would be dead. Said Bob, on hearing that news: “Each one of us looked around and felt so sorry for those other nine poor sonsabitches.”

For me, it was about pushing the bell curve. Knowing that if there was something to be done, we couldn’t not do it. Believing beyond logic that we were going to escape the fate of those other poor sonsabitches.

It is very hard to put a price on that kind of hope.”

Source: Bloomberg

If you don’t do anything else today, please take a few minutes to read the link above about a caregiver’s experience with her husband’s kidney cancer.  It describes the hopes, the fears, the process of what people really do go through with end of life cancer.

A powerful story.  

One sadly, many people go through, but when is enough, enough?  With the current debate raging around healthcare reform, this very human story gives us insight into what people actually go through, not just the treatments and side effect management, but also the billings, the paperwork, the quest for a cure. It makes one realise that any of us could have been there.

For all the pontification by the politicians on both sides of the House, I wish some of them would come to their senses and start thinking about what matters in healthcare reform.  Their constituents are people, after all.  If they don’t do what we think is fair and reasonable, we can always vote them out until they learn to get it right.  There really should be an Amendment that says Congress cannot have a healthcare plan that is not available to everyone else.  Only then will the deal get done properly.

Kudos: Thanks to my buddy, Bill Scully of the HCA Group, for sharing the article with me.

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2 Responses to “What price end of life cancer care?”

  1. Betsy Raymond Stevenson

    Sally, This story is heartbreaking and brought back powerful memories of my father’s death from lung cancer in his 50s and my stepfather’s long decline and death from Alzheimer’s Disease. She put it well: everything is done with the best of intentions.
    But, when do you stop fighting in the face of someone’s death? My father’s last year was a misery, with month’s spent in EU, tied to the bed so he wouldn’t claw out his breathing tube. For my stepfather, it was a mercy when his mind passed the point of being aware of what was happening to him. There was a phase when his expression looked like one of the damned in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting of the Judgement.
    Emotion aside, the right choice is to make precious healthcare resources go where they will benefit the most people. But, how do you do that when you are fighting for the life of someone you love? As you point out in your post, this conflict of interest is at the heart of our current dysfunctional healthcare system.

  2. MaverickNY

    Betsy, yes, it’s always a tough decision, mentally and emotionally.
    You describe your Father and Step Father’s predicaments very eloquently. I suppose we all have to go at some point, but the whole healthcare debate has certainly lead to some thoughtful debates in my own family about what our individual wishes would be.
    In some ways, the process has been very useful as a result.

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