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Commentary: How much is one life worth?

From Friday's Globe and Mail

We must balance what's gained by spending more dollars caring for people with end-stage cancer and other diseases, with what we would gain spending the same dollars elsewhere, two health analysts argue. ...Read the full article

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  1. Dave Scott from Ottawa, Canada writes: The Federal government employed. Do they have all drugs covered I wonder? I expect so. There are two classes of people in Canada, is there not? The protected government workers and most everyone else.
  2. Dave Scott from Ottawa, Canada writes: The worst situation is developing in Canada. The government is not certifying or restricting access to the new cancer drugs. And we comply with the U.S. on patient protection matters which means knock-off versions are illegal in Canada. Plus our cancer rates are among the highest in the world. We pay hi taxes as well, so your not likely to have money to fund treatment for yourself.
  3. Dan Stevens from Winnipeg, Canada writes: It's pleasant to read an article that can talk about limited resources for health care without becoming shrill. This is the sort of perspective that Canadians need if we're to have a meaningful debate about our health care system. It's not enough to declare that cradle-to-grave provision of health services is a 'national treasure' and end the debate by casting aspersions on the patriotism of anyone who feels otherwise. Well done, G&M.
  4. Dave Willis from United States writes: Congratulations on taking on a tough issue. The idea that we don''t put a price on life is silly and it is time we wrestle with it in medical policy.

    We don't make perfectly safe cars, or planes or dams, or elevators, etc.. because we know the incremental costs would not be reasonable. The same must be said for terminal diseases and old age.

    It will be interesting to watch this debate and hope we learn from it.
  5. Sean Robinson from Oakville, ON, Canada writes: Kudos for the globe for having the editorial courage to print this. IT is long past the time to begin creating a decision making framework for allocation of health dollars that explicitly addresses the reality that we will NEVER have enough resources to heal all ills. It is NECESSARY to deal with the question of who gets what - and why. And yes - sensitive issues make for 'insensitive' policies. But that is not an excuse to hide from the responsibility of these needed decisions.

    I look forward (optimistically, right or wrong) to an intelligent engagement of this issue by our health care ministers, finance ministers and the management of our health care institutions.
  6. Gesina Laird-Buchanan from Napanee, Canada writes: I believe there is a third equation which should come into the debate. Terminally ill cancer patients should be allowed to leave this life at a time of their choosing. I make this suggestion as a cancer survivor. For me one of the worst things about having cancer was the lack of control over my future - the fear of being incapacitated, becoming institutionalised, suffering pain. I was one of the fortunate ones. I recovered. But I used to joke with my family, that if things got really bad, they were to take me back to the land of my birth, the Netherlands. 'You want to see it once more?' they asked.
    'No,' I said, 'they have euthanasia there.
  7. Bryan Dunn from calgary, Canada writes: A very well written article about a very emotional, but necessary subject. We simply will not be able to afford to treat everyone in the future to the maximum abilities of Health Care. Something has to give.
  8. robert marshall from Scarborough, Canada writes: My parents always told me that if I had to make the decision to pull the plug on them or not that I should do so. Life is precious but the reality is that we should not because too attracted to keeping someone around when we all know that they are probably lost to us. Its a difficult decision for our health care system but at the end of the day our health care systems responsibility is to treat people so that they get better not to try and prolong a life the a point where it could be easily argued that the life wasn't really living in the sense. If we keep trying to keep people alive for longer and longer periods where they don't have a good chance of ever recovering then we are in our own way torchering them and ourselves. True we are get sick and we all have problems in our later years but with life comes death and we should try and ensure that if a patient has no chance of ever coming back or surviving that we don't try and delay the process unnecessarily
  9. Namita Aggarwal from Toronto, Canada writes: Just sharing some thoughts, nothing conclusive.

    First of all, I would ask what the economic status is of decision makers and analysts and whether or not they have lost a loved one to cancer or if they have had cancer themselves.

    Having gone through this recently with a family member, I would support in home care where possible. Society at large does not know the valuable of personal support workers. However, we were fortunate in that my brother and me were able to care for our father. We both have jobs with understanding managers. Moreover, we could afford in home care. He required the morphine pain pump (subcutaneous in stomach) for a day and half only but that pump made his end peaceful and comfortable.

    I also believe that the end of a person's life should be as free of pain as possible. If supports are taken away, will euthanasia be legalized?

    Finally, I would support more funding being spent on alternative therapies. Sometimes, it is medication side effects that shorten a person's life.

    My father tried oral chemo for 2 weeks and wound up in the hospital for a month. So, unable to pursue chemo, we relied on naturopathy to increase his comfort in the time he had left. His palliative care doctor described him as a 'miracle' because he kept bouncing back after major setbacks such as C-difficile and CHF. Mind you, you have to search to find a good naturopath. There are many false claims out there and you need to know the side effects of everything including naturopathic treatments.
  10. Paul Rogers from Canada writes: Thank-you to the Globe and Mail for this important article. Unfortunately, our political leaders won't touch this debate as it to much of a hot potatoe. Canadians have to wake up to the fact that some tough choices have to be made with regard to health care, and insist that our leaders make them.
  11. Jimmy K from Toronto, Canada writes: I think this issue is particularily difficult in Canada because there are no alternatives to the public system. We can view health care like insurance, where you pay a premium (through taxes) and get a defined benefit plan as a result, which will pay x dollars for y more years in life, or something similar to how they do it in the UK as illustrated in this article. The problem lies in the fact that as Canadian's with the one-payer system, we have no alternatives to this care. Say you have the financial resources to get an experimental treatment not approved by the "insurance plan", is it right of our government to deny you access to that treatment, when they are not paying for it? These are very tough issues, good on the Globe for raising them, as these issues will only come up more and more as our society ages, more people are faced with dieseases requiring expensive modern medical treatment, and fewer and fewer people are working to help sustain this public payer model we have.

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