My heart feels dead inside… but my prostate feels fine

Behind the Crikey pay wall, Melissa Sweet writes about prostate cancer.

The argument, as far as I can tell, runs like this:

  1. Peter Beattie has spoken out in favour of getting screened for prostate cancer.
  2. A doctor disagrees with him and has written a book.
  3. Wayne Swan disagrees with the doctor even though the doctor has written a book.
  4. People should make up their own minds about whether to get screened because Beattie’s message is too simplistic.

The article reads like the point of the article was edited out in a prior version.  Surely the story isn’t ‘Three people disagree, so make up your own mind about prostate screening’.  Why does the doctor disagree with prostate screening?  Why has he written a book?  Why are ‘many GPs’ changing their practices?  Given that — apparently — many GPs recommend the Atkins diet, perhaps we need a bit more of the ‘Why’ and less of the ‘He said, she said, they said’.

Perhaps she could have asked the Cancer Council for their argument.  It’s freely available here and makes for some interesting reading.

Despite the above, I’m more interested in the thrust of her article: ‘Make up your own minds about prostate screening’.

A favourite essay topic in medical ethics is the question of consent.  Given that patients don’t have degrees in medicine, to what extent can they make informed choices about their health?  In Australia, there’s a hairy bunch of case law about what constitutes consent in the medical field but it doesn’t really get to the ethical meat of the question: how can I, as a patient, consent if I don’t have the skills needed to decide? Continue reading “My heart feels dead inside… but my prostate feels fine”