Letter: Compassion can be carried too far

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Sir: I was outraged by the suggestion that chemotherapy for people suffering from advanced cancer should be withheld in favour of helping infertile but otherwise healthy people (report, 11 May). Professor Richard Lilford may be a gynaecologist but even he ought to know that some people with advanced cancer can be cured.

Most chemotherapy in this situation, though, is intended partly to prolong good quality life for as long as possible (and this can often be counted in years) and also to make patients as comfortable as we can. For instance, can he seriously be suggesting we should deny treatment to women whose breast cancer spreads to their bones? This can lead to pain and disability.

Should we really tell these women they must put up with it, when we know treatment can bring relief? I doubt that many infertile couples would wish to condemn cancer patients in this way, however strong may be their wish to have children.

Professor Lilford's polemic merely blurs the real issue: that of chronic underfunding of the NHS.

Yours faithfully,


Director of Clinical Research

Imperial Cancer Research Fund

London, WC2