This is great news for hospitals and radiologists, both of which are in desperate need of extra cash. Heck, I even know one radiologist who only gets 16 weeks off a year. Add that to his salary of at least $400K or $500K and this guy is hurting! It looks like a ruling in Massachusetts is going to make it mandatory to medically monitor smokers using CT scans of their lungs. This comes from a lawsuit from two plaintiffs against the tobacco companies. One of them is 70 years old and has been smoking since she was nine. And she is still smoking. Here is what she said in the article:
“I’m worried that there might be a chance that I could have lung cancer. I don’t know how I would handle that. But I am not worried enough that I could make myself quit indefinitely. I am addicted. . . . I can’t stop.’’
At first glance this whole thing seems nice enough. It may help some people detect their cancer earlier. The bigger picture, however, is more murky. Is the tobacco company going to pay for the palliative therapy of this 70 year old if they find lung cancer or is our society stuck with the large bill giving her two more months of life? As the article says, tens of thousands of people could qualify as class members and that the tests cost $400 to $500 annually. If you remember, radiologists have been pushing for CT scans to be part of the regular check-up in smokers. This cost, if not paid for by big tobacco companies, would be astronomical. This is not to mention how this court case could relate to other toxin exposures that may require "monitoring" as well.
It is cases like these that make medical ethicists salivate. Should society continue to pay for people who abuse themselves? What if those people were duped by the tobacco companies? Aren't those warning signs on the packages enough? Why should these lawsuits continue when the dangers of smoking have been known for decades? There are a ton more questions that could be generated by cases like these. My hunch is that the patients really won't come out winners here. The only people who will win are the hospitals, the radiologists and lawyers.