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June 28, 2005
Time for another public-health issue that someone has done an excellent job covering. That would be Colby Cosh, taking on a fuzzy-minded editorial on cancer rates. This is a fine example of going to the data to see if someone really knows what they're talking about, and I could only wish that all journalists were as handy with a graph as Colby is. Quoth Cosh:
"The effort to play on the emotions--and there is no more emotional topic in Western life than cancer--is so poorly disguised; the contemptuous attitude toward reason is so transparent. I believe this has become more widely known, and pieces like Mr. Anderson's are now commonly regarded by newspaper readers as mere static. And no one thinks there is any harm in having it about, right up until the moment we completely lose the ability to communicate candidly with one another, or to persuade by any means but sheer amplitude."
His further thoughts on non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which actually does seem to be rising, are well worth checking out, too. All this is accented by a well-publicized recent survey of beliefs about cancer, whose full text is available here. The one that particularly gets me is "There is currently a cure for cancer but the medical industry won't tell the public about it because they make too much money treating cancer patients." Actually, you could probably have substituted just about any disease in that question and found the same distressingly high agreement.
The percentage of people agreeing with that place a lower bound on the number of survey respondents who know nothing about economics. (We'll leave knowledge of biology out of it for now.) How much money would people pay for a cure for cancer, compared to current therapies? More, possibly? Would there be any incentive to offer one, then, especially considering that new cancer patients come along all the time? And just when did we pharma companies all get together to share our secret cancer cure, anyway? Why wouldn't a company decide to break ranks and blow its competitors completely out of the market? And who was it that decided that they didn't want a Nobel Prize and the everlasting gratitude of millions of suffering people? Oy.
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