NEWS

Facts and myths of cost

There is also the human side of the matter. Of the 36 patients that underwent transplant operations at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, four were 14-16 years of age. Would doctors be able to look these youngsters in the face and propose mechanical assistance that could offer them at best two more years of life? Another 15 patients were below 35 years of age when they were operated on. How can anyone compare the quality of life [offered by transplants] with the wretchedness of existence through a tube that supplies life-giving energy? Have doctors dealt with a situation in which the assist device must be removed if septicemia is to be avoided, with not a replacement organ in sight? As for the cost of heart transplants, this is pure fiction. The majority of transplants carried out by the center cost about 70,000 euros the first year (including post-operative care) – a bargain compared to an assist device, which may cost a patient’s social security fund 150,000 to 180,000 euros. That price does not include post-operative treatment, nor constant hospital admissions due to problems and complications. The total cost of implanting such a device in the first (and quite probably the last) two years of a patient’s post-operative life exceeds 250,000 euros. Thus economic arguments in favor of mechanical assistance do not stand up to examination. Assist devices as destination therapy only offer a short-term lease on life, depriving patients of a quality existence and threatening to wholly undermine the economics of the health sector. Can this society tolerate such a drain on its resources for temporary solutions when, if these same resources were to be channeled toward transplant organs, money would be saved and long-term survival and quality of life ensured?