More on Those Glossy Ads for Cancer Treatment

Several thought-provoking letters appear in the New York Times responding to the recent piece about the cancer treatment industry’s advertisements. One letter was from Dr. James Rickert, of Bloomington, Ind., president of the Society for Patient Centered Orthopedics:

To the Editor:

As a cancer survivor who has faced recurrent bouts of disease, I agree that the intense marketing campaigns used by cancer centers only heighten the stress and anxiety of the difficult treatment decisions that all cancer patients face. It becomes nearly impossible, at a time when one feels that any poor decision could be fatal, to wade through all the non-science-based claims for success.

As a physician who treats many patients with terminal metastatic disease, I have seen that this marketing often leads to heart-wrenching guilt and second-guessing by patient and family alike when treatments fail. Rather than being allowed to accept that their disease was incurable despite the best medical care, patients often feel that they are somehow to blame for choosing the wrong institution in which to receive treatment.

This is a distressing example by our nation’s finest medical centers of the shameful practice of placing financial concerns before the needs of the patients that they claim to serve.

If our academic medical centers cannot offer better patient-centered, evidence-based care than this, where in the world shall the medical community look for leadership?

Dr. Rickert makes an even better case than I could about the dangers of relying on advertising to make important decisions.

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