Preventative medicine has gone completely mad and it is only going to get worse. One of the most depressing articles I have read recently (and there was plenty of competition for this particular accolade) was in the Journal of Palliative medicine. It was entitled:
‘Statins in the last six months of life: A recognizable, life-limiting condition does not decrease their use.’
Statins, as you probably know, are used to reduce the risk of dying of heart disease, strokes and suchlike. Now, I am not exactly a fan of these drugs, to put it (very) mildly. But I thought that even the most fanatical ‘statinator’ might feel that if a patient is dying of terminal cancer, then there is little point in continuing with a drug designed to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Wrong. It seems that patients with terminal cancer are prescribed statins up until they draw their final breath on this Earth. What exactly are their doctors trying to prevent here? Well, at least they didn’t die of a heart attack first? Thank God for that.
I have had personal experience with this particular madness. I was visiting a lady of one hundred and one years old in a nursing home. The nursing staff asked me if I could change her statin from a tablet to a liquid form, as she was no longer able to swallow tablets. This lady was so severely demented that she could not speak, was unable to remotely recognise any of her relatives, and was lying immobile in her bed – doubly incontinent.
I felt that, in the circumstances, it was probably best just to stop the statin, especially as they are one hundred times more expensive in liquid than tablet form. So it all seemed like an expensive action in futility. For this action I was severely criticised by the nursing home, and another doctor involved in her care. I believe I was, at one point, accused of being ‘ageist.’ Well, I didn’t really know how to respond. I wondered where we drew the line with preventative medicine, and it appears we no longer draw the line, anywhere.
We carry on forever. We give drugs to the terminally ill, the extremely old and severely demented. Once started we never, ever, stop, no matter what, until the patient is dead. Perhaps at that point I should scatter statins on their ashes, just to make absolutely and completely certain that I am not missing a trick. After all, I would hate be thought of as ‘deadist’.