Letters to the editor
Hope for cure for deadly disease is double-edged sword
Editor, The Times:
In the mid '90s, my son, 25 years old, went through a bone marrow transplant for CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia) at The Hutch. Although I agree with watching/monitoring our research facilities for fraud and deceptive practices, I found your articles long on accusations and innuendo but short on supporting facts ("Uninformed Consent," Times series, March 11-15). In any research facility, the cutting edge medically may "cut" either way.
Research implies determining that which works and that which doesn't. Emotionally, it is hard to deal with a deadly disease, but I saw first-hand with my son that he refused to be a victim and asked lots of questions before agreeing to anything procedurally or as a treatment. (I found his example helpful when I, too, encountered a battle with breast cancer in 1998.)
Also, The Hutch recommended the patient have an advocate (family member or friend) along when talking to doctors and staff so information would more likely be retained. We found this helpful.
We saw very ill people at the hospital during our stay, and The Hutch was a last resort of hope for many from all over the world. Many do die. The risks of opting for a one-hit home-run cure of their disease also has the risk of death.
- Sharon Bogen, Prosser
Most humanitarians and taxpayers would agree that the mission of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is to stamp out cancer. Hats off to all those who dedicate their careers to finding possible causes and a cure for this insidious disease. Hats off to the brave citizens who keep that mission in check - people like Drs. John Pesando and Henry Kaplan, Times investigators David Heath and Duff Wilson ("He saw the tests as a violation of 'trusting, desperate human beings,'" Times "Uninformed Consent" series, March 12).
It took 20 years, but Pesando was finally heard and my heart goes out to him. Let us not overlook the fact that he sacrificed the career of his dreams in the name of ethics. He kept his vows as a physician. It must have been a terrifying experience standing up to such a revered institution and its most powerful key players.
- Martha Henry DiRienzo, Seattle
As one who has heard the words "you have cancer," I know what it's like to search your soul for an answer. You look for anything - to live, to keep the pain manageable, to ensure others don't have to go through the same thing. That's the point of clinical trials. You never know if your life span is longer or shorter as a result. You never know if the treatment will work, or what defines "work" - prolonging life, keeping cancer at bay, minimizing the pain.
But you choose exploratory treatment because it offers an option that may help. And if it doesn't help you, then it helps someone else, or leads to a drug that will. That point was overshadowed by your allegations against The Hutch.
Try focusing on your own credibility, rather than trashing the credibility of an institution that has saved thousands of lives in this community and beyond.
- Lynann Bradbury, Bellevue
If James A. Bianco of Cell Therapeutics, Inc. is so dedicated to curing cancer ("Times' series discredits efforts to cure cancer," guest commentary, March 20), and apparently doesn't care about the financial profits involved with such an endeavor, why didn't he set his company up as a nonprofit instead of choosing to make money off the most desperately ill sector of our society?
- Mike McCormick, Seattle
I have yet to see The Hutch, James Bianco, Cell Therapeutics, or any of the doctors respond with accuracy and specificity to The Times piece. "Spin," boys, spin, but the point is: Was there an undisclosed financial interest in the study? And were there better treatments, with great likelihoods of success for some, available partway through the study? And were the chances of success of the study less than disclosed, while other treatments had higher-than-disclosed chances?
The point is, duty to the patient and informed consent, not the sacred search for a cancer "cure."
- Kelly Scott, Seattle
Return to placating
The business of researching disease is exactly that - a business. While the intention might be to find a cure for a certain condition, any such organization needs to be unsuccessful to survive. I accept all this and am bothered only by the annoying spin game by The Hutch and its allies. I am so completely tired of their daily ad in the paper detailing slight imperfections in The Times' story about their profit-taking. How many research dollars are you wasting on this? Please return to placating us with occasional mediocre "breakthroughs" and let us get back to reading the comics.
- Patrick Beringer, Seattle
Blame the disease
The first question I asked myself when I read The Seattle Times diatribe is, "Did those who died, die of the treatment or the disease?" Treatment of any cancer is not a proof-positive given. The only answer is the latter: This disease is deadly and the reason for its existence is still a mystery. Finding an answer by blaming those who are trying to solve its deadly secrets is counter-productive and in the long run will only hurt the work done to find a solution and cure.
My wife died of the most deadly of the cancers, pancreatic cancer. She had a small chance of survival if the cancerous tumor were removed. It was a major, radical surgery, which was successful but the cancer had spread beyond the tumor. I could have wrongly blamed doctors, surgeons and the hospital for her death but the disease is what killed her. The ignorance of a cure is all I could blame.
Any attempt to cure or prevent the spread of cancer is experimental. The track record of this disease makes patients decide how they want to be treated. If something proves positive to defeat cancer, that's fine, but it will take many failures before it is understood. To attack those who are after that cure is ludicrous.
- James S. Morris, Renton
The PC badge
So the bottom line is the Girl Scouts can exercise their "free association" right by not allowing male members and not lose their rent-free use of the facilities ("Schools panel backs ending Boy Scouts' free rent, 'kid mail,'" Times, March 20).
The Boy Scouts, however, cannot exercise what the Supreme Court has ruled is their "free association" right to not allow homosexual members or leaders and they lose their free use, or more probably any use, of the facilities. Additionally, the school board is going to change the language of their rules and procedures to ensure that the Girl Scouts are allowed to continue.
Very interesting and very politically correct.
- Robert Ward, Bonney Lake
Big Brother vs. The Man
So, it isn't illegal to post police officers' names, addresses, Social Security numbers, family members' names, etc., on the Internet? ("Web site reveals personal data on Kirkland police," Times, March 19.)
I would love to see someone start a Web site containing the same information on every elected and appointed official, including judges, in the United States. Bet it wouldn't be long before it was illegal.
- Rose Laffoon, Shoreline