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'a Small Tumour, a Giant Timebomb' Critical Response

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Ms. Jill Anzarut - a 35-year-old woman living in Ontario, Canada, and a mother of two children - was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, as a small, early-stage tumour appeared in her breast. As a result, she was recommended by her doctor to get treatment with Herceptin that would cost her up to $40,000 annually. Yet she was denied the treatment, and thus, now she has to undergo chemotherapy. Using this story as an example, “A small tumour, a giant time bomb” written by Margaret Wente emphasizes on the necessity to reform the current and, as she states, “callous”, health-care system. Yet there are certain points that need to be considered upon her arguments.  

Logicality and lack of evidence are the first issues that arise in Wente’s article. The first point to be discussed is when Ms. Anzarut was denied to be treated with Herceptin, as “In Ontario, Ms. Anzarut’s tumour is too small to qualify.” (Wente, 2011, para 1). Wente, upon stating this fact, should be aware how big a tumour can be to qualify the treatment with Herceptin. Health-care policies and regulations do not exist based on nothing. They exist based on results of practical researches and experiments, and act as guidelines for doctors, therapists, and caregivers in providing treatment to patients. If Ms. Anzarut’s tumour was considered too small to receive treatment with Herceptin, the denial given to her was probably for her sake, as treatment with that drug could become dangerous if conditions/requirements were not matched. Therefore, using this point as a contributor to address the health-care system as “callous” is not convincing, as this displays Wente’s lack of logicality. One more point: “Other provinces cover Herceptin in cases such as hers.” How can Wente be so sure? Obviously she should look into this policy in other regions in Canada so as to have a more complete picture of it and have concrete evidences, before taking aggressive actions against Ontario’s health-care system.

The story was further involved with more journalists, and, as a consequence, headlines such as “Government denies mom life-saving treatment” were produced. In order to respond, Ms. Deb Matthews - Ontario’s Health Minister - stated that headlines could not dictate health-care policies. And this response, according to Wente (2011, para 3), was due to Ms. Matthews’s assignment to reduce the emergence of bad and public stories until the next electoral period. This point in her argument is questionable, as she appears to employ emotions and her personal viewpoint on politicians, viewing them as those only act in their benefits concerning re-election. Also, she claimed that the main duty of Ms. Matthews was to prevent high health-care costs from “destroying public finances.” This is irrelevant and illogical to the case of Ms. Anzarut and other similar patients, because of two reasons. First, in order to provide treatment to serious diseases such as cancer, it requires the government to invest an enormous amount of money in doing researches, experiments, and manufacture the drugs. Therefore, these drugs are served at high prices. By paying for these drugs, patients allow the government to have money it needs to continue improving the health-care system. In return, patients are treated, they recover, and thus, be able to contribute and add value to the society again. Second, if patients refused to pay for the drugs, they will not receive treatment, and therefore, become sicker and cannot contribute to the society. This will indeed damage the public finances more heavily as people cannot continue to do anything to make a living, and therefore, will rely on the government to provide help, including health-care and unemployment helps. This is basically logic, yet Wente, in this argument, lacks logical fallacies, and thus, her points are weak. Also, she even stated that “Rising health-care costs eat up nearly half of all provincial budgets.” (Wente, 2011, para 9). She did not provide any statistics to support this, thus this is likewise considered not persuasive due to the lack of evidence.  



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