Monday, October 03, 2005

Denying women cancer treatment because of contraceptive clause

I, LIKE many others, was absolutely aghast to hear this morning about patients being denied, or should I say women cancer patients, being denied the chance to try a radical new cancer treatment because they would also have to use contraception.

Out of a dark, distant recess in Ireland’s shameful past came the righteous representatives of hospital ethics committees blocking treatments on ridiculous grounds.

For example, some years ago, let’s say 10ish, if you suffered from an ectopic pregnancy, the chances are your whole fallopian tube would be removed because to remove the foetus alone is abortion and wrong!

I always failed to understand this, I mean I know why it happened but I never agreed. To me it stank of removing an arm because of a lost digit.

While it feels like something that could only happen in Ireland in days gone by, I know this discrimination happens everywhere in different guises.

This is how the Irish Times started its article today:

“A leading cancer specialist has accused two Dublin hospitals of sectarianism for blocking a radical new lung cancer treatment because it involves a recommendation that women patients use contraception.”


Sometimes I hear things that make me want to run away, very fast from those who are hanging onto Ireland’s bad, dark, old days. This is one of them.

The two hospitals, St Vincent’s and the Mater Hospital (name and shame them) deferred decisions on approving the use of Tarceva on patients in hospitals on the grounds that the recommendation that women receiving treatment use contraception was contrary to their Catholic ethos.

Seriously… Did you read that?

The leading cancer specialist who is mentioned in the article, Dr John Crown, described the drug as “possibly lifesaving” and said it was sectarian to deny it to women as the hospitals serve people of all faiths.

I’d go further than that; I’d say this is misogyny, reckless and unbelievably blinkered.

Never mind the fact that in many cases pregnancy can increase the speed of a cancer’s growth, so you would imagine that it would be better where possible to try to encourage women not to get pregnant.

Of course that decision is the woman’s – hopefully with sound advice from her doctor and not the unsound rantings of some archaic, long played out and long overdue for being put to pasture ethics committees’.

I remember hearing about these committees’ years ago and despite what I saw around me in the country at the time, I could not believe these groups existed well in the way that they did.

In the not too distant past, ethics committees were full of men, with not one woman on them, and they would decide whether or not Mrs Smith should have a D&C.

Cos you do know this is a method of abortion as well also a medical procedure for other gynaecological conditions. It’s a wonder people with cancer are allowed chemotherapy at all considering it can render people infertile, surely taking a drug that does this is against some Catholic ethos?

Considering abortion is illegal in Ireland, a D&C could not be used as for termination. So why if Mrs Smith has recently had her baby and through whatever difficulties it is decided that she needs a D&C as part of her treatment, why ever did this have to approved by an ethics committee. But it did.

And now we read this, isn’t this shocking.

1 comment:

Sinéad said...

I feel the same about this and I've blogged about also. I wonder how the board would feel if a woman receiving treatment for cancer decided to abort a foetus damaged by said drugs. That's an even bigger ethical headache for Catholics than contraception.