All entries for Tuesday 11 October 2005
October 11, 2005
We had a Structural Biology group seminar two Fridays ago. The guy speaking was an ex-doctor working in medical research, looking at rare genetic diseases, and he made several interesting points.
Most people seem to trust that medical treatments will make them better, not worse. However the speaker said that relatively frequently with the new treatments he uses the patient can develop new, and sometimes more serious, problems. He cited a trial where 6 of the 17 patients developed leukaemia following treatment. But should these treatments be stopped if there's no other way of testing their safety and if in most cases they save the patient from a lifetime of relative misery?
The speaker also put a large emphasis on the obstacles he has to deal with to get funding for the treatments he develops. The main problem is that it's a case of medicine being ruled by economics, and illogical economics at that. Basically the NHS allocates a budget of £30,000 per person per year. If a treatment is developed that, for example, costs £60,000/year it will be rejected without consideration even if the potential costs of maintaining the sick person in their ill state could be far higher. This also completely ignores the fact that, with treatment, a patient could go from being completely dependent to living a normal life. Why on earth is there no common sense applied to this problem?
A scary fact, that I was previously unaware of, is that the NHS spends more on treating alcohol-related illnesses than it does on paediatrics. Does it not seem unfair that so much of the NHS's money is being poured in to avoidable, self-inflicted illnesses? Is there not an argument for forcing people who have brought their medical problems upon themselves to pay for their treatments? But then you can argue that smokers and heavy drinkers pay so much tax that they pay for their treatments anyway?