Philobiblon: No treatment is cost-free

Friday, March 03, 2006

No treatment is cost-free

Are we, as patients and societies, ready to accept that there is no "perfect cure" in medicine - that any drug, any treatment has risks and costs as well as benefits, so complex is the physiology of the biological body?

Probably not, I suspect, given the furores over vaccines, over adverse reactions to drugs etc.

The problem is that the issues are terribly complex (and I do mean that description).

These thoughts were provoked by a study that found one in ten treatments for breast cancer after screening discovers abnormalities are probably unnecessary.

Some cancers that would probably not have caused any harm during a woman's lifetime are being picked up by rigorous screening.
While screening reduces the death rate, over-diagnosis is inevitable in a programme that is designed to catch breast cancers early. But the scale of over-diagnosis has not been known and estimates have varied from 1% to 54%.

On the straight politics side, Menzies Campbell is said to be going to take the Liberal Democrats to the right. Excellent - more space for the Greens!
And Patience Wheatcroft in The Times has an interesting piece on Labour's cronyism and astonishing faith in businessmen with less than stellar records. There does seem to be a sociological effect, that Labour governments (Not just Blair, although he does seem to be a particular problem) fall swooning at the feet of businessmen.


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