"Fundamental principle of the NHS" proves its lethality

January 28, 2008 5:16 PM

This is a really tragic case. Colette Mills has not lost her case in the legal fight to be able to buy the drug Avastin - that could have doubled the chance of her breast cancer not spreading - without the NHS cutting off support for the rest of her treatment. However, during the four month trial the cancer has spread and it would now be too late for the drug to do much good.

The Department of Health are sticking to their guns and insisting that top-up payments would violate a "fundamental principle of the NHS, now supported by all the main political parties, that treatment should be free at the point of need". This is a disgracefully weak reason to let someone die. They can't go on pretending that this is a binary choice between free treatment and copayment. In Colette Mills' case it was a choice between copayment and no treatment at all. If the NHS cannot provide a drug, if the free treatment option is not on the cards, then denying her the chance to better her chances is not principled but brutal.

Beyond that, as research (PDF) for Doctors for Reform pointed out, the principle the Department of Health appeal to is already violated throughout the NHS.

I can't make this case as well as Mills herself:

"Mills, a 58-year-old former nurse, said: “I am just absolutely gutted. I just cannot believe people make these decisions about other people’s lives.


“It wasn’t going to cost them. I was going to pay for it. How can they say this policy is far more important than somebody’s life?"

This is a really tragic case. Colette Mills has not lost her case in the legal fight to be able to buy the drug Avastin - that could have doubled the chance of her breast cancer not spreading - without the NHS cutting off support for the rest of her treatment. However, during the four month trial the cancer has spread and it would now be too late for the drug to do much good.

The Department of Health are sticking to their guns and insisting that top-up payments would violate a "fundamental principle of the NHS, now supported by all the main political parties, that treatment should be free at the point of need". This is a disgracefully weak reason to let someone die. They can't go on pretending that this is a binary choice between free treatment and copayment. In Colette Mills' case it was a choice between copayment and no treatment at all. If the NHS cannot provide a drug, if the free treatment option is not on the cards, then denying her the chance to better her chances is not principled but brutal.

Beyond that, as research (PDF) for Doctors for Reform pointed out, the principle the Department of Health appeal to is already violated throughout the NHS.

I can't make this case as well as Mills herself:

"Mills, a 58-year-old former nurse, said: “I am just absolutely gutted. I just cannot believe people make these decisions about other people’s lives.


“It wasn’t going to cost them. I was going to pay for it. How can they say this policy is far more important than somebody’s life?"

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