This morning, ITV’s Daybreak ran a feature on the efforts of the parents of a five-year old girl who is suffering from a rare form of brain cancer, to raise money to pay for treatment at the Burzynski Clinic in Texas. Present in the studio, along with the presenters, were the girl, her father, and Daybreak’s Health Editor, Dr Hilary Jones. A YouTube clip of the interview is available here (poor sound quality unfortunately). In the interview, Dr Jones is asked for his opinion on the treatment. He describes it as ‘pioneering‘. He goes on to say that, “Pioneers in medicine tend to get a rough ride“. He also relates an anecdote about someone he knows who is currently at the Burzynski Clinic and is receiving ‘excellent treatment‘.
I am left wondering what messages this interview sends out to viewers, some of whom will know of cancer sufferers. My conclusions are:
- a treatment which is not available in the UK must be a treatment worth having.
- a treatment which is ‘pioneering’ and ‘experimental’ is a treatment worth having.
- a treatment which is not validated by the relevant medical authorities is a treatment worth having.
- a treatment which demands enormous personal and financial sacrifices is a treatment worth having.
- parents are entitled to try anything possible to find a cure for their children.
I believe none of these stand up to close scrutiny.
In my view Dr Jones has done a disservice to the sufferers of cancer and their friends and relatives. It isn’t surprising when parents have an emotional response to the situation they find themselves in. It isn’t surprising when the media use that emotional response to produce a piece which will grab the attention of viewers/readers.
I find it surprising that a doctor should do no more than amplify that response to the exclusion of all else. Readers of this and other blogs and followers of #Burzynski on Twitter will be well aware of the issues surrounding this ‘pioneering’ and ‘experimental’ treatment. If you need further information follow these links:
Quackometer – Dr Hilary Jones Promotes Questionable Burzynski Clinic on TV
Josephine Jones – Dear Evening Standard, it is immoral to promote the Burzynski Clinic
The 21st Floor – Burzynski: A Small Victory