Thursday, August 27, 2009

Death Panel Decree

My cousin Jimmy's oncologist was frank, but not without hope. "We have a small window of opportunity in which we can save your life" from a gastric cancer that had been discovered too late. There was a skilled surgeon at Houston's excellent M. D. Anderson's Cancer Center who'd had much success with this type of cancer surgery and had agreed to take this case.

After a couple of days of hope and excitement, the phone call came. The insurance company would not pay for the trip, for the surgery, or for any treatment at M. D. Anderson. They referred him instead to K. U. Medical Center, where "they didn’t find the oncologist to be supportive, encouraging, hopeful or even really very pleasant. " There would be no surgery for Cousin Jimmy.

You can probably guess where this story ended four months later.

A 42-year-old family man had the only chance to save his life taken away from him by the death panel of an insurance corporation that was actually being paid to protect his health. Caring nothing about the man, his wife, his mother and daughters, a corporate death panel decreed that his life was not worth saving.

*** Update: Here are some of the best cancer resources I have been able to find on the internet. One of the best resources in the world is Kansas City's own R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation. They have a book you can read online called "Fighting Cancer" which should be required reading for anyone diagnosed with an advanced cancer, and their families. They also have a toll-free number (800-433-0464) you can call where they will steer you to the best resources and try to match you up with a survivor of the kind of cancer a person has been diagnosed with.

The other most important link is the National Cancer Intstitute's PDQ database, which lists the lastest and best treatments for fighting every type of cancer. Many oncologists ignore this resource and continue fighting cancer the way they were taught in medical school back in the 80s.

And perhaps most importantly, Clinical can put a person who has been given up on by the medical industry a chance to try promising, cutting-edge treatments, often at no expense.

Fighting Cancer is where to begin. If you call the toll-free number listed above, they will send you as many copies of the book as you need, free of charge. I've also seen these books distributed at no cost in the Kansas City Missouri Public Libraries (in both English and Spanish... no doubt they have other languages available, just call 'em. They'll help you).

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