Monday, September 08, 2014

The technology proliferation story that's not often told

Gary Schwitzer puts into perspective the issue surrounding the desire of Ashya King's family for the child to have proton beam therapy.  Excerpts:

In all of this, there is a golden opportunity to improve the public dialogue about new medical technology. Issues such as: how many such devices does one city, one region, one country, the world need?

Why does the US (with more than a dozen operating and more than a dozen in the works) have so many proton beam facilities?  Much of the proliferation – not all of it – is for reasons other than treating kids with difficult-to-treat brain cancer, where the evidence is strongest but where the number of cases is relatively small.  It’s to treat the prostate cancer cash cow, for a condition where the evidence is questionable.

That’s a part of the technology assessment, technology proliferation story that isn’t often told.  

So while the Ashya King story has many ugly angles, let’s not turn it into a story of the big, bad British health care system that doesn’t have any proton beam facilities up and operating for kids like this yet.  That angle – about allocation of limited resources – is a lot more complex.

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