The Cancer Drugs Fund, Assisted Dying and Us

Or perhaps I should have said, and me. I am one of those fortunate people whose chemotherapy is currently being funded by the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), although one must wonder for how long. Despite the promise to continue funding those already receiving treatment, we are all aware that the nation does not have a bottomless purse — and government promises have a way of disappearing like the Cheshire Cat’s grin. For those who have not yet started treatment with one of the drugs taken off the list, the situation is bleaker. Over the next few days we shall probably see attempts to try to make political capital out of the CDF’s decision. That is understandable, but not helpful. Cancer does tend to grab the headlines in a way that other, equally deadly, diseases do not; but if we try to make political capital out of any illness, we may lose sight of the fundamental objective of the NHS: ensuring the health of the nation as best we can. There is an inherent limitation in that, but it is one we are slow to acknowledge. When one is ill, facing an uncertain and probably short future, one doesn’t think as clearly or disinterestedly as one might at other times. When one has to make decisions on behalf of those who are ill, decision-making can become more complex still. How does one weigh a slightly longer life-span for one person against cost/side-effects and cuts that may affect others?

So far so good; but there is something else on the horizon worth thinking about: Lord Falconer’s bill on Assisted Dying. I don’t want to go over the arguments for and against. I have made my own position clear in a previous post. But this morning I found myself wondering whether those of us receiving expensive treatments will feel under subtle pressure to do the decent thing and relieve the State of the burden we put upon it. I am a fairly robust person, but I have noticed that every time I receive chemotherapy, I am told how expensive the drug is that I am receiving. If I were depressed or anxious, that might be enough to influence me into taking a decision I would never dream of taking under other circumstances. It is, as they say in the Facebook status, complicated. May I ask your prayers for all affected by the CDF’s decision — patients, families, medical staff, those who don’t have cancer but suffer from other serious illnesses?

I don’t want anyone to be in any doubt that the care I have received since diagnosis has been excellent, and I am very grateful. I mentioned the ‘expensive drug’ thing only because it is an instance of how easily a casual remark could be taken amiss by someone feeling vulnerable.