Monday, November 23, 2009

Struggles with Preventative Medical Measures

Recent changes outlining when women should get mammograms has caused emotional debate. Personally, I've always taken the position that when it comes to human life, preventative measures should trump any and all costs. Life is that important.

However, I do understand that by taking this position, I've left myself open to being criticized by those who look at and analyze the economics of such generalized acceptance to anything medical. And like most things I can see both sides.

Edward Lotterman has done a nice job laying out why those that look at the numbers have changed the recommendations for mammograms. I agree that false positives cause additional costs and emotional strain.

However, my internal discomfort is, can we place value on a life? And if we save one life by using, sometimes unnecessary, preventative treatment, is it worth it? My emotional side says it is. My economics side says it isn't. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Breast cancer is such a loaded subject. On the pure science side, after all the years mammograms have been recommended and like the PSA test for prostate cancer, it's unclear that the test makes a difference. Both tests are imprecise enough to cause a lot of false positives with their associated worry, pain, further tests. Without a history of breast cancer in my family and having had one false positive myself, I've opted out of the annual ordeal.

But that's just me.

Aunt Kay

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