How the blame culture limits chances for sick people
There are hundreds of drugs that could be used to benefit patients, if it wasn’t for a massive log-jam in the system of licensing treatments and authorising their use in patients.
The situation we now face is part of a wider change in perception of risk. The view has developed that life should be entirely risk-free.
If anyone suffers harm it must be someone else’s fault. Ideally the fault should lie with a big organisation with deep pockets. It should be held accountable, prosecuted and made to pay vast amounts of compensation to the alleged victim.
People have pursued claims for slipping on wet leaves, burning their mouths on hot drinks and injuring themselves changing light bulbs.
Often it is cheaper for an organisation simply to settle a claim than incur a giant lawyers’ bill in trying to fight it.
Our attitude to medicine has been coloured by this perception even though there is no such thing as a risk-free drug.
In America the launch of almost any new therapy is followed within a year or so, by some kind of attempt at litigating over allegations of unacceptable side effects, and this is despite the fact that the regulatory system for approving new drugs is ever more rigorous.
It is understandable that drug companies just don’t want to invite trouble by allowing even terminally ill patients access to unlicensed drugs, even though there would be a huge benefit in knowledge about the effect and potential efficacy of different treatments.
Despite his own failing health, Les Halpin has taken up the challenge to change this attitude, and there must be any number of other affluent, well-connected people facing terminal illness, who could help with this initiative.
Most of us can see the logic in his argument. It only needs a loud enough volume of public and political support to get a simple change in the law.
Dying patients would waive their right to sue over side-effects in exchange for the right to try an unlicensed drug.
Who would say they should be denied this chance?