A Stage Four cancer patient is allegedly being denied her right to choose whether or not she should take chemotherapy to help combat her illness.
The patient who was recently discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after spending ten weeks there told Barbados TODAY: “I had fluid removed from my lungs during my hospital stay, and after two procedures, the doctors examined me and found no traces of cancer, yet the hospital was still insisting that I take chemotherapy treatment.”
The 50-year-old, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2017, said the doctors did not explain clearly to her why she still had to have the treatment despite showing no signs of cancer, and she was concerned about some of the practices she saw at the island’s primary healthcare institution.
“I noticed that Stage 4 patients who got chemo on the ward, both men and women, died within a day or two of receiving it, and 28 patients died during the ten weeks I was on Ward C12 (the cancer specialty ward).” She also claimed that some patients were forced to take medication.
She added that when the fluid was removed from her lungs, the procedure caused her body to swell up and she could not move, and according to her, other patients experienced a similar thing.
She said her illness was presently in remission, which she attributed in part to much prayer and assuming a vegan diet since her initial diagnosis. “I am not experiencing any pain, there is no longer any fluid on my lungs, and there does not seem to be anything wrong with my liver either, so I do not understand why they seem to be forcing me to take the chemotherapy.”
In response to the patient’s concerns, President of the Barbados Cancer Society, Dr. Dorothy Cooke-Johnson, acknowledged that patients had the right to choose their treatment and doctors should not pressure them to do otherwise. Nevertheless, it was a common practice to administer chemotherapy to Stage 4 cancer patients as a precautionary measure.
“Even if it looks like the symptoms are all gone, chemotherapy is recommended because in case further cancerous cells are detected, it can stave off further infestation and “buy the patient more time”. Pain management and other elements are also included at this stage to make it easier for the patient to cope with the ravages of the illness. And generally speaking, doctors all around the world carry out this practice based on research findings over the years.”
She, however, recommended that the mother of two sons in their early twenties discuss the matter further with the doctors, either alone or in the presence of her children, in an effort to outline the best way to proceed under the circumstances. The other charity which looks out for the interests of cancer patients in Barbados, Cancer Support Services, declined comment on the matter.
When Barbados TODAY approached the QEH on this matter, it issued the statement: “Patients do have the right to choose the treatments best suited for them and the chemotherapeutic treatments prescribed are within acceptable international best practices, and are recommended based on a number of factors including the individual’s diagnosis, life expectancy with and without treatments, and client preference.
“Based on an analysis of these factors, the oncologist will recommend a course of treatment and discuss it with the individual, following which the patient is allowed to determine his or her treatment regime or in some cases, decline the treatment.”
Regarding the incidents the patient said she noticed during her stay, the hospital added that the “medical staff of the Clara Brathwaite Centre of Oncology and Nuclear Medicine is unaware of any complaints made by patients or relatives of patients. Beyond that, the QEH has a Clinical Risk Management Unit responsible for the mediation of complaints made by patients, relatives and caregivers, and staff of this unit is available to assist individuals with any problems which may arise, including talking to staff members on behalf of the patient or complainant.”