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Early detection of cancer and private medical insurance

Two friends have had cancer recently. I use the term “had” in the most optimistic sense. Because although they are both cancer-free, we simply don’t know how long that will last.

Wednesday, April 24th 2013, 1:12PM

For one of my friends their case was similar to a case widely reported in the news media – the doctor has been told off by the Medical Council for not sending his patient for further tests sooner. The client, who fortunately remains alive, has diminished chances of recovering from their cancer because of the delayed detection.

Why does this happen?

Obviously, for the case reported in the media the patient felt strongly enough about it to make a complaint. They must have wondered why their care was not better.

Is it malpractice?

We simply cannot know enough from the reports to tell, but it does seem like better care should have been taken, it also seems like the punishment handed out was very minor.

Is it just the odds?

Perhaps this is a fine question of judgement, a genuine edge case where the decision could have gone either way.

Is it a reasoned response to the risk of false positives?

As not everyone can be tested every year for every possible disorder some choices have to be made. In some cases there is the risk of false positives to consider, and some tests – like biopsies – carry health risks of their own.

Is it rationing?

That’s the fear: rationing. It’s hard enough coping with the idea of ill health, the possibility of a potentially fatal illness, without having to second guess your doctor – are they not sending me for that test because I don’t need it, or because of the cost to the state sector.

In both of my friend’s cases the immediate treatment once diagnosed was very good, it was just the question of getting a diagnosis.

Of course, the easiest way to take the risk of rationing off the table is to insure it. I’d want to insure it all and have every form of medical cover I can possibly buy – including cover for treatment overseas – but if you are working with a client at the other end of the spectrum, I’d at least get specialists and tests cover. 

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