Bob Buckley for The Examiner: Good Outweighs the Bad in Medical Advances

October 8, 2021

Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley discusses the changes in medicine over time and the economics behind them.

The article, Good Outweighs the Bad in Medical Advances, was published in the October 2 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.

The changes in medicine in my lifetime have been exponential. As a result, the quality of care has improved in many respects. For example, cancer treatment has improved dramatically. I recall attending a seminar in the early ’90s and a physician-speaker made the bold statement that most patients do not survive metastatic cancer.

Shortly after this seminar, I began representing a woman who had metastatic breast cancer. I consulted with one of the leading breast oncologists in the world and he told me that I should let my client know that she should get her affairs in order because her life expectancy was very limited.

As it turned out, he was correct as she died while our case was still pending. Another client had a similar outcome from metastatic breast cancer and so the speaker in Chicago and my breast cancer expert were correct. Yet, treatment of breast cancer has improved.

Other forms of cancer treatment have also improved. Advances in treatment of leukemia is an example of improved treatment. Acute promyelocytic leukemia is not only treatable, but can actually be cured. I have often wondered where we would be today in cancer treatment if we had spent half of the money we spent on wars in the Middle East on cancer research.

The technology of surgery has changed too. Robots are now performing many surgeries. The surgeon must still guide the robot, but surgical technique has improved as a result of the robots, provided the operator has the requisite skill and training.

Minimally invasive procedures have increased too. Yet, I have experienced firsthand the results of unskilled providers performing minimally invasive procedures. My only caution is to those undergoing such procedures is to make sure that the surgeon has extensive experience. The “practice of medicine” has additional significance in those settings.