Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Linda O'Boyle vs. the NHS

Linda O'Boyle was told by her doctors that taking Cetuximab would "boost her chances of fighting" the bowel cancer that had invaded her body.

There was only one problem. Cetuximab is not funded by the National Health Service. If she wanted the medication she would have to pay for it herself.

But in doing so, she created a Catch 22.

Some cancer drugs not yet available on the NHS can markedly increase the chance of survival.

But Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, claims that co-payment will create a two-tier NHS, with preferential treatment for patients who can afford the extra drugs.

So yes, the drug may well help, but allowing patients to pay for the drugs privately would create a two-tier system of preferential treatment for those who can afford to pay for health care.

However, by denying coverage for this drug the NHS discriminates equally across social and economic classes by refusing to make it available to anyone, whether rich or poor.

A spokesman for Southend NHS Trust said: "A patient can choose whether to continue with the treatment available under the NHS or opt to go privately for a different treatment regime.

"It is explained to the patient that they can either have their treatment under the NHS or privately, but not both in parallel."

Herein lies the problem.

You can accept the "free" care from the NHS or you can pay for medical care privately . . . but you can't have both.

And this is the system that is favored by Dr. Donald Berwick, head of CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services).
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