Catherine Zeta-Jones blames doctors for Michael Douglas’ throat cancer

Why is Catherine Zeta-Jones so mad?

It’s a facetious question. Her husband, Michael Douglas, was recently diagnosed with throat cancer he described at “stage 4.”

She was quoted by People magazine as saying, “It makes me furious they didn’t detect it earlier.” They have young children, and anyone who hasn’t personally been faced with this threat can only imagine her fear and anxiety. I suspect no number of large houses, expensive cars, or entourage members reduce her emotional pain.

Mr. Douglas reacted more humbly, saying, “Without having to blame anybody … these things sometimes just don’t show up.”

I don’t know any details beyond those reported in the mainstream press. However, her quoted reaction to her husband’s illness speaks volumes about some of the underlying forces that contribute to America’s, inefficient bloated healthcare system. Her primary frustration was that he had seen several doctors for throat pain over a six-month period before he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Her implied assertion was that the doctors screwed up by not catching the disease early, which worsened his prognosis. The problem with this assumption is there is no evidence that any cancer of the throat is more likely cured if caught early. It’s a fallacy, perpetuated by many special interest groups in American healthcare. There are dozens of different kinds of cancer. The prognosis of only three are widely accepted to be improved by early detection (breast, colon, and, cervical). Other cancers have evidence that early detection doesn’t make any difference, but the media rarely reports on those.

Her quoted statements also lack any recognition of his role in the cancer. He has a smoking history, which probably was a contributor (though I can’t be sure because the cancer type wasn’t disclosed). Grief makes considering the whole story difficult. Maybe that will come in time.

We can all understand why she lashed out at the doctors. Anger and denial are expected reactions to bad news. However, I hope she doesn’t go on a series of talk shows imploring the viewers to rush out to a doctor to have a scope shoved down their throat to look for a cancer. It would be just another technophilic waste of American healthcare dollars.,

One of the hallmarks of the British healthcare system is the humility of patients and doctors about the limits of aggressive medical care. Ms. Zeta-Jones, who is originally from Wales, has become Americanized in more ways than geography.

Richard Young is a physician who blogs at American Health Scare.

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