A few weeks ago, I took a pretty angry stand against cancer in all its terrible forms. Not exactly going out on a limb, but I hoped to encourage others to work and contribute toward a cure — a hearty thanks to all who have done so.
A couple of things in recent days have sparked another discussion in my head about how even something so seemingly black and white as the fight against cancer can be politicized, watered down, and manipulated for questionable purposes. An example earlier this year was how two highly successful non-profits working on behalf of women can suddenly lose their way, get into petty litmus test fighting, and undo a long history of cooperation and positive outcomes. The mess between Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen Foundation is complicated, nasty, and ultimately a losing proposition for both organizations. My touchstone on this and all other cancer related situations is to focus on whether the cause of cancer victims is advanced. If it isn’t, the people involved need to look themselves in the mirror and ask what could be more important.
Perhaps the murkiest area is when government over reaches. Packaging Digest reports on a federal appeals court decision that threw out the FDA’s foray into creating ultra-graphic tobacco warning labels. I wrote about the case in November 2010, troubled by the over the top nature and the government’s conflict of interest in collecting tobacco taxes with one hand while wagging a finger at smokers with the other.
In its drug regulatory role, the FDA is too often intent on throwing up roadblocks against new cancer drugs, even those that have been shown to be effective in clinical trials. In the interest of attaining some sort of near-flawless safety record, the FDA has prevented promising drugs from reaching the market sooner than much later. In such instances, people with especially difficult cancers and their physicians are denied the opportunity to explore new drugs that have helped others. In many cases, such drugs are the last remaining hope. Such decisions should not be left in the hands of bureaucrats.
What really got me thinking about the politics of cancer is a public service advertising campaign launched by the LungCancerLeaders.org. Pat McGee, Vice President of Marketing, for HLP Klearfold brought it to my attention after hearing the radio spot while driving with his daughter. Both of them were struck by the thorny issues it raised.
Essentially, the non-profit (and several others devoted to helping victims of lung cancer such as NoOneDeservesToDie.org from the Lung Cancer Alliance) noted that it is a forgotten cause without ribbons, walks, and ultimately sympathy. The assumption is that those who contract lung cancer brought on their own trouble by smoking. On an individual basis, that may or may NOT be the case. Plenty of people who contract lung cancer are non-smokers. And plenty more contract lung cancer than most other forms of cancer. The creation of some kind of cosmic pecking order of cancer victims is a terrible image, but yet there it is. Cancer is cancer and when someone has contracted it, playing politics over causes, and the withholding of sympathy and support, are really, really bad ideas.