FORMER Newcastle MP Bryce Gaudry was given a 5 per cent chance of surviving pancreatic cancer when he was diagnosed less than 12 months ago. He had radical surgery and chemotherapy for seven months.
When doctors found cancer in 16 of his 20 lymph nodes his chances dropped to 3 per cent. He is fighting, even with those odds.
Mr Gaudry and wife Barbara spoke in public on Monday about the need for research into a cancer where the chances of survival haven’t changed in decades, where survival rates for other cancers have sometimes significantly increased.
They also spoke about cannabis oil and the need for clarity and clear public statements about its impact on the lives of some cancer patients.
The pain and vomiting decreased and his appetite returned. What also returned was some measure of quality of life after months of simple survival.
Mr and Mrs Gaudry are measured in their comments, but believe the public has a right to know cannabis oil can be effective to treat the symptoms of some cancers, and patients would be greatly assisted if it was readily available in a form and concentration in which they could be confident.
They distanced themselves from Newcastle cannabis oil campaigner Andrew Katelaris, although Mr Gaudry said the deregistered doctor’s “driven advocacy” had helped a lot of people.
There is a lot of controversy about the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. That controversy is not assisted by advocates who appear to have little regard for scientific rigour and the basic rights of patients to informed consent.
It is appropriate for health authorities and our state’s health watchdog, the Health Care Complaints Commission, to take action where doctors – deregistered or not – breach accepted codes of practice.
But it is also incumbent on the health industry – pharmaceutical companies included – to address the desperate needs of cancer patients to have the best possible chances of surviving their conditions.
Time is not on their side. It has taken public campaigns to prioritise the needs of patients.
It is also heartening to see reputable institutions like the Hunter’s Calvary Mater and John Hunter hospitals engaging in cannabis research to help patients with terminal cancer and children with epilepsy.