OPINION

No dignity, let alone cure

There is hardly a single family that hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way; even if it just means being tested and spending anxious hours in doctors’ waiting rooms or in hospitals. We have all realized that patients without financial resources and the support of a family are often likely to lose the battle before they are given a fighting chance. I recently heard a friend who has had cancer, a university professor and head of a university clinic, tell his tale of trying to be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy with some dignity in a public hospital. I found it hard to believe that such a person had to go begging for treatment with a minimum of dignity in the National Health System (ESY). Then there is the tale of another cancer patient, an «ordinary» person insured in the seamen’s fund. The public hospital doctors wrote him off. No one explained to his family what treatment he should be given, what chances there were of a cure. Specialized cancer hospitals only accepted him when he had become a bag of bones. Private doctors recommended therapies in private clinics which his family could not afford. ESY gave him painkillers, but he had to buy the more expensive medications himself and struggled to be reimbursed by his fund. He is dying without dignity. ESY writes off cancer patients as lost causes. Chronic cancer patients are expensive, unpleasant, undesirable. Radiologists complain that ESY’s equipment is outdated and too little, radiotherapy is given as a palliative measure, as the waiting list is two months’ long. Meanwhile private clinics are modernizing and making fortunes – with money from social security fund contributions. This is the equal society and the welfare state. Greece in 2010 can’t even provide any dignity for its seriously ill citizens.