The Houston Chronicle reports on the expensive treatments for cancer in our society today, and on the trend or need for oncologists to discuss with patients the cost of treatment and their financial options. It is a hair raising article more for what it does not directly say, and for which it alludes. Some patients need to consider the financial costs and their position in life to determine if they want to live. In short, maybe if the patient cannot afford the treatment, then maybe he or she should not undertake the cure.
Because of the ever increasing costs associated with chemotherapy oncologists are to receive their first guidelines on how to have a straight talk with patients about the affordability of treatment choices. These guidelines will address in particular patients whose cancer cannot be cured but who are seeking both the longest possible survival and the best quality of life — and may be aware it could mean bankrupting their families.
The statement is particularly staggering when you think that apart from the survival rate, that patients must make financial choices on the quality of life, and the pain they must obviously endure, during the time they have remaining. Yet, bankruptcy is an option for the survivors of these people as well. Somehow, that is not right. There probably needs to be guidelines for bankruptcy attorneys to discuss these issues with cancer survivors and their families who face the prospect of filing.
We have to face facts. Drug prices are a growing issue for every disease, especially for people who are uninsured. But cancer sticker shock is hitting hard now, as a list of more advanced biotech drugs have made treatment rounds costing $100,000, or even more, no longer a rarity. Also, patients are living longer, which is good news but means they need treatment for longer periods. The cost of cancer care is rising 15 percent a year.
We as bankruptcy practitioners know that unlike some medical services that might be obtained without the appropriate amount of funds upfront, the same is not often true for medications. Patients and families cover these costs by taking out loans on their homes, credit cards, and the like. These come back to haunt the families and survivors later on as the only way to end the problem is through bankruptcy.