While Congress struggles to get its act together and restore normal operations, some terminal patients are fighting for their lives without proper care. In the case of 48-year-old Leo Finn of Massachusetts, limited government means loss of treatment. Finn has liver cancer, but cannot access his needed medication due to the shutdown.
Finn was receiving chemotherapy at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; but because the hospital can no longer submit his application to the necessary government website, he is being denied treatment.
Said Finn's wife, Kimberly, to MyFoxBoston.com, “It felt like his diagnosis all over again, only this time with less hope.”
Finn was undergoing treatment with the drug cabozantinib, which is approved to treat thyroid cancer but won’t be available to the general public for other types of cancers until more clinical research is performed. Finn could access the drug through clinical trials, and was responding well to the treatment. He even had a trip to Disneyland planned, but his future now seems uncertain.
Finn told Fox that when he was denied treatment, "I was mad. I feel terrible. I wanted to get this going. As I've said before, I want to see my kids graduate, and I want to walk my daughter down the aisle."
Finn is not alone in his lack of medical care. The government shutdown has halted numerous clinical trials, many of which were saving lives.
The National Institutes of Health’s Maryland hospital expects to turn away 200 patients per week during the shutdown, including 30 children.
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told the Associated Press, "This is the place where people have wanted to come when all else has failed. It's heartbreaking."
Programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also on hold. A memo released by the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that the CDC is now “unable to support the annual seasonal influenza program, outbreak detection and linking across state boundaries using genetic and molecular analysis, continuous updating of disease treatment and prevention recommendations.” They can also no longer offer “support to state and local partners for infectious disease surveillance.”
UPDATE: The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reports that they have resumed clinical trials for cancer treatments despite the government shutdown.