Medicine as an imprecise science?



We've already had one thread today debating shortcomings in the NHS - Linky. Later, whilst perusing the Torygraph, I found this: George Pitcher.

It's the sad story of how an old soldier, who had served in Italy during WWII, died from pancreatic cancer after a misdiagnosis. I was ready to fire up the much-vaunted outrage bus until I remembered a couple of things about this evil disease, from which my father - also an ex-soldier - died some 16 years ago now.

1. Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare in the UK.

2. By the time the symptoms present, it's usually too late.

It was only because my mother was a radiographer that she managed to get him seen by a specialist and then treated at the London hospital where she worked: the earliest appointment offered by his local hospital after referral by his GP was for 10 weeks later, by which time he was already dead, the flash to bang being roughly the same interval.

We are a fxxxing clever race. The fact that we can now perform lung transplants, manipulate DNA, land on the moon etc etc is ample testament. But we should not expect too much - we are fallible and the price of our mistakes increases as our knowledge and capabilities grow.

I don't blame the medical profession for my Father's demise, although it could be argued that the NHS let him down. On the other hand, they kept my mother going for 5 years after she was originally diagnosed with a particularly aggressive breast cancer, which only killed her when it metastised to her brain.
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