Child B's treatment 'worth the money'

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The doctor who treated the leukaemia victim Jaymee Bowen, once known as "Child B", said yesterday that he had no regrets, despite her death this week.

"In retrospect, I would still do the same thing to the same person in the same circumstances," said Dr. Peter Gravett, a consultant haematologist.

Jaymee, whose case became a cause celebre after her local health authority refused her a second bone marrow transplant, died on Tuesday evening.

She seemed to have beaten her disease - she suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and leukaemia - last March when a mystery benefactor paid pounds 75,000 for her to be treated privately.

Her father David had taken Cambridge and Huntingdon Health Authority to court to try to force them to continue to treat her. The authority argued that she had endured enough chemotherapy. Her chances of survival were slim and the money could be better spent.

The case of Jaymee - known at the time only as "Child B" - sparked a national debate over rationing in the NHS. She eventually underwent an experimental treatment known as donor lymphacyte infusion, injecting her sister's healthy blood cells into her body although it had proved successful in only 11 out of 50 cases.

Although her leukaemia had seemed to have gone into remission, she was admitted to a London hospital last week. Tests showed the illness had relapsed and despite initial improvement she deteriorated on 21 May and died without regaining consciousness, surrounded by her family.

Dr. Gravett said yesterday: "I would do it again. To have a clear year of life after being written off is worth it. Is it worth spending pounds 6,000 a month on an 11-year-old girl running around. . . or to spend it on people who remain in intensive care who may never regain normal life?"

However, he added that it would be better for experimental treatments to take place within the context of clinically controlled trials.

Stephen Thornton, chief executive of Cambridge and Huntingdon Health Commission, stood by his decision not to give Jaymee further treatment. "We took the decision on a professional basis after a lot of consultation and thought but it became a very personal affair. . . We have always said we felt the decision we took was right and we still do."

He emphasised that Cambridge had not refused all treatment to Jaymee, but only the experimental treatment which it felt would not work.

Professor Maurice Lessof, who chaired a Royal College of Physicians' working party which produced a report on setting priorities in the NHS last year, said the case had opened the public's eyes to the fact that choices had to be made. "There has to be some open discussion of this and the public in the end need to understand that there is so much effective but high-cost and sometimes distressing treatment now available that we can't have it all."

Jaymee's courage had been an encouragement for others, said Dr. Gravett. He had spoken yesterday to her father , who said to him: "Don't let anybody tell you we failed."

But Dr. Gravett admitted that when Jaymee had become ill again, "she had said if she had to go through it all again she really didn't want to".