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Massachusetts Medical Society




J. M. Coetzee's violent, anti-apartheid Age of Iron, a novel the Wall Street Journal termed “a fierce pageant of modern South Africa,” is written as a letter by a retired classics professor, Mrs. Curren, to her daughter, who lives in the United States. Mrs. Curren is dying of cancer, and her daughter advises her to come to the United States for treatment. She replies, “I can't afford to die in America. . . . No one can, except Americans.” Dying of cancer has been considered a “hard death” for at least a century, unproven and even quack remedies have been common, and price has been a secondary consideration. Efforts sponsored by the federal government to find cures for cancer date from the establishment of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1937. Cancer research was intensified after President Richard Nixon's declaration of a “war on cancer” and passage of the National Cancer Act of 1971. Most recently, calls for more cancer research have followed the announcement by Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, that her cancer is no longer considered curable.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Cancer and the Constitution: Choice at Life's End, Volume 357, Page 408 Copyright ©(2007) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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