Poor Kids In Poor Countries Should Die From Cancer


We’ve a complaint that more poor more kids, living in poor countries, that get cancer die of it than richer kids in richer countries do. This’ll sound harsh – it is harsh – but this is the way things should be too. Resources are always scarce and they need to be directed where they can do the most good. In poor places this means not really treating cancer so as to save more lives by doing other things.

Sure, always willing to listen to ideas about how to use extant resources better. The real solution being to get that economic growth going so that, as has been happening these past 40 years and long may it continue, the poor paces become rich.

But we’re supposed to be shocked by this finding:

Children’s chances of surviving cancer less than 30% in poor nations – study
Stark differences revealed in five-year survival rates between rich and low- and middle-income countries

The reality being that we should approve of it:

Figures reveal a striking disparity in five-year cancer survival rates for children in developing nations compared with those from rich countries. More than 80% of children diagnosed with the disease in high-income states will live for more than five years, yet fewer than 30% of young people with cancer in low- and middle-income nations have the same chance of survival, research has shown.

There should be this difference, it is righteous and just that there is. The paper is here:

Each year ~429,000 children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 years are expected to develop cancer. Five-year survival rates exceed 80% for the 45,000 children with cancer in high-income countries (HICs) but are less than 30% for the 384,000 children in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs). Improved survival rates in HICs have been achieved through multidisciplinary care and research, with treatment regimens using mostly generic medicines and optimized risk stratification. Children’s outcomes in LMICs can be improved through global collaborative partnerships that help local leaders adapt effective treatments to local resources and clinical needs, as well as address common problems such as delayed diagnosis and treatment abandonment. Together, these approaches may bring within reach the global survival target recently set by the World Health Organization: 60% survival for all children with cancer by 2030.

Sue, maybe we can do it better but that the difference exists is just copacetic.

Resources are scarce – if they’re not then they’re not an economic resource. This includes the portion of everything that everyone does that can be spent on curing kiddies. That is, the percentage of GDP that can be spent on the health care system.

In some poor countries the health care budget is $1 a year per head of population. OK, maybe $10, possibly $50. In the UK it’s £3,000 or so, in the US maybe $8,000 and more. Averaged out that means we can cover everyone for the vaccines and sniffles and pneumonias and have enough to treat those statistically rare childhood cancers. So, we do. In the $1 a year system not so much.

The worst bit about spending $50,000 – say, just to invent a number – to cure a childhood leukaemia being that sure, we save one life, then leave 49,9999 kids vulnerable to the usual childhood killers by not vaccinating them. Thereby killing many more children. Actually, if it’s vaccination that goes, possibly killing some 12,500 or so of those near 50k kiddies.

Poor children in poor places should die of cancer. The solution is to get those places richer. As is in fact happening faster and better than any other time in human history.

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Dodgy Geezer
Dodgy Geezer

“…..Poor children in poor places should die of cancer…….”

Um. To my mind, ‘should’ carries an aspect of obligation or approval in at least some of its meanings. Which makes this sentence open to misreading by opponents, and characterisation as intentionally cold-hearted and vicious. Would it not have been better to have said:

“Poor children in poor places WILL die of cancer. That is what being poor in a poor place means.”



The aim is to be vicious to get that point across.

Dodgy Geezer
Dodgy Geezer

I appreciate the rapid response! I guessed that that might be the case – and if I had heard you speaking that with appropriate emphases I guess that I would have been quite happy. As you can see, I tried to get that point across by adding a second sentence to emphasise it – though I agree that it makes it less punchy… Nowadays people need to consider how their words can be twisted by an opponent to mean quite the opposite of what was intended. I recently had occasion to email my MP about Brexit, and he said that… Read more »