The Mater Hospital and cancer drugs

Twenty Major highlighted something I have been meaning to write about. That is the rather odd (crazy?) decision of the Mater Hospital. I will try and tell the story in brief for those of you who have not read about it.

Brian Conlan, Chief Executive of the Mater hospital, along with the clinical trials advisory group, decided that it was against the hospital’s Catholic ethos to allow a clinical trial of Tarceva, a drug which is said to prolong life in patients with lung cancer. This was because women in the trial would be required to use contraceptives, as the drug could have catastrophic effects on an unborn baby. The trial was therefore deferred.

The Irish Times recently reported:

In June Mr Conlan wrote to the hospital board saying his group was receiving clinical trial applications which contravened the hospital’s ethos.

The Mater said the advisory group deferred its decision on the Tarceva trial because it knew another committee in the hospital, with three members, was drafting the wording of an extra information leaflet which would be given to trial participants and would reflect the hospital’s ethos.

Fr Kevin Doran, Mater chairman John Morgan, and a nurse tutor, Sr Eugene Nolan, are on this group which will report on its leaflet to a full meeting of the hospital board on October 18th.

A hospital spokesman said that if the board adopted the wording at that stage, the advisory group could give the trial the go-ahead.

I side with Twenty on this one:

The irony of a nun and a priest making a decision about contraception is hardly worth noting but this is the kind of shite we had to put up with for years in Ireland. We had a government but the church ran everything really. I really did think their influence had waned to a point where they were as insignificant as they deserved to be but there’s still a bit of life left in the rancid old dragon yet.

8 Responses to “The Mater Hospital and cancer drugs”

  1. This situation is simply the result of the sloppy agreement entered into by the Irish Government when it decided to fund Catholic hospitals such as the Mater. If it wanted a secular ethos it should have made this a condition of funding. If the nuns and priest didn’t like that, the Govt should have buggered off and built its own damn hospitals instead of piggybacking on the Catholic ones.

    But the agreement is that the Catholic ethos rules. Get over it or go somewhere else.

  2. Cordula says:

    Did somebody in that hospital board even think about if a woman with cancer should even get pregnant?? But Catholics might be of the opinion that she should have no sex at all. Catholic logic.

  3. Wouldn’t a woman with cancer, offered a miracle life-saving cure that might however thalidomise her baby, want to be stark raving mad to even think about getting pregnant until her treatment was over? Abstinence is the only 100% sure guarantee of remaining unpregnant. This is not Catholic logic, it’s human – and indeed humanistic – logic.

  4. Cordula says:

    Dear Tony,

    unfortunately Tarceva is not a miracle life-saving drug – not at all. It just prolongs life for a few months. So if a woman would want to include sex into her last months contraception would be inevitable.
    If the call for abstinence in this case is humanistic is a matter of one´s personal view. It might be for some, but for others not. And catholic nuns and priests are definitely not experts in this issue ;-))

  5. Nate says:

    In response to Cordula….None of these chemo drugs, old or new, are “miracle life-saving drugs” not at all. The fact of the matter is that one might experience a few months, at best, added to their lifespan to see friends and family that they might otherwise not have. Cancer is such a ravaging disease state that the clinical trials of these drugs are considered clinically and statistically significant if the increase life by 2-3 months, and that is approved by the FDA not the drug company. Furthermore, most and I emphasize MOST patients are willing to pay the extra bucks for those precious few months and for the possibility of up to a year, which has been experienced by multiple patients. The average price per Quality Adjusted Life Year(QALY) associated with chemotherapy agents is about $20,000 and that is within the acceptable range for most countries.

  6. Nate says:

    Also of note, being a health-care professional, you would be suprised at how many….”below-average” intelligence people there are walking around this world. And yes some of them have cancer and are receiving dangers drug therapy and given the opportunity they would indeed have sex without giving a single thought as to what might happen if they were to get pregnant- Realist logic. HAHAHA. Take care guys

  7. Dan says:

    I’d have to agree with the “Catholic logic” on that one.

  8. Chris says:

    Did somebody in that hospital board even think about if a woman with cancer should even get pregnant?? But Catholics might be of the opinion that she should have no sex at all. Catholic logic.