Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Hope and the Limits of Research

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Hope and the Limits of Research

Article excerpt

Susanne and Margaret both suffer from stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Their oncologist, Dr. Tetler, has overseen both of their cases for some months. Dr. Tetler is also principal investigator of a Phase II clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness and relative safety of a new chemotherapy agent that in earlier studies had prompted antitumor responses in some women with breast cancer.

Susanne, who is forty years old and has a fifteen-year-old child, was diagnosed with breast cancer four and a half years ago. She underwent a mastectomy with radiation therapy and the cancer went into remission. She had health coverage through her husband, but when he switched jobs she was told by the new insurer that breast cancer would constitute a preexisting condition should it clinically recur. Sadly, the cancer reemerged and standard chemotherapy has failed to control it. The previous treatment course had placed significant strain on Susanne's husband; anticipating the burden once again, he left home. Susanne has been unable to secure additional coverage in the short term and likely will have to mortgage her house to cover her care.

Margaret, who is fifty years old, is married with two grown children who live in the area. She has worked as a data analyst in this area of research for almost ten years and was working in the psychosocial arm of this trial when she discovered a lump in her breast six months ago. Her cancer was metastatic upon presentation. Margaret sought out the clinician she considered to be the region's best, Dr. Tetler. Thus far, attempts to stem tumor growth with standard therapy have been unsuccessful. …

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