The Cancer Death-Panel App Is Here

Tyler Durden's picture

Originally posted at Economic Policy Journal,

When government gets involved in a sector, it distorts the sector. Corporations are not incentivized to strictly serve customers. This is now occurring in the healthcare sector--and is only going to get worse. A "cancer app" is an example of where medical personnel will play god to advance government and crony corporate interests instead of patient interests.

Robert Goldberg writes:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives.

 

That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

 

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks...

 

The app’s biggest problem, though, is that it’s one-size-fits-all: It treats all patients as the same, ignoring the genetic variation in patient response that a new class of “targeted” cancer drugs will soon address.

 

Dig a bit deeper, and it’s clear that ]Dr. Lowell Schnipper, who heads ASCO’s Value in Cancer Care Task Force] and his allies have a more ideological motivation. He talks of limiting spending on new treatments as a way to make “the health-care system, not just the cancer system, more rational and just.”

 

And this line of thinking does away with the Hippocratic Oath. No longer is the doctor’s first obligation “to apply for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required.” Instead, Schnipper believes three months of added life “is not a large enough benefit to trump the greater benefits to many that would have to be foregone to provide it.”

 

In fact, he regards the premium that Americans place on life as a character defect, observing, “Other cultures do not seem to view the postponement of death by a few months” the same way we do.