Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kicking the cancer football to an all time high/low?

This time last week I posted about cancer. For those who didn't read it the thrust was that cancer was being used as a political football by both parties as they tried to out-do each other and that it was totally unedifying and bordering on disgusting.

I wrote that because I have quite a strong relationship with cancer. My mother died in 1995 from breast cancer, my grandmother a few years later, my better-half has, during the last three months been having treatment for a rare form of cancer, and the surgery she had was exactly the same as the surgery her grandmother had six months previously.

For those with cancer, either living with it personally, or living with it through a loved one, it sucks. It's quite scary and very horrible. There are many things that can be done to improve the treatment and aftercare people have, but what is truly sickening is seeing politicians fall over themselves to see who can promise to save more lives.

Let me be blunt. It' s not politicians that will save the lives of people who have cancer, it's global medical research, doctors and surgeons. When politicians play the "we'll save more lives than the other lot" it's disgusting. Kicking about a disease like a football for political gain is mind boggling.

I was rather hopeful that the issue would be kicked into touch strategically because of its sensitive nature, but after reading this morning's Sunday Times my mind is boggling. It seems the Labour Party has been sending out mailshot postcards targeted specifically at those who are undergoing treatment for cancer and the cards say "Are the Tories a change you can afford?"

They even sent one of these postcards to a woman who has terminal cancer, who was, to say the least, shocked. It can't be particularly pleasant, whilst facing you're own mortality, to receive a postcard telling you that if you don't vote for Labour then you're going to die.

What is most astounding is that a Labour Party spokesman told the Sunday Times,
"These leaflets highlight the Conservative party’s actual policies on cancer treatment. Cancer is a terrible condition and sadly all too prevalent in our society, which is why some of the 250,000 people we sent this message to are likely to have suffered from it."
Firstly, they don't highlight anything about the Tory policy, because what they're highlighting is referral for initial treatment. People already suffering from cancer are already in the system, as I blogged last week, and the targets don't apply in the same way.

Second, and more importantly, is the fact that they're actually defending the decision to do this. It's bad enough that they're using cancer as a football in general, but to actually defend the decision to send cancer sufferers postcards with the subliminal message that a vote for the Tories is a vote for their own death? The mind boggle, it really does.

Note: I see Iain Dale has just blogged this too. You have to wonder how on earth this idea got through the dicussions about what to do in the campaign. Did no one stop and think? Where was John Heppell, the Labour whip who is standing down to look after his wife who is suffering from breast cancer?

Look, I understand that politicians will try to campaign on issues, it's bad enough they do it with cancer anyway, but to go to this depth? Where was the quality control? Dirty campaign? This isn't just dirty, it's rolling in shit and mud type stuff.

It's thouroughly depressing stuff and this is just week two. What else is coming?

Update II: People wondering how they managed to target these people, it was done by using anonymous data mashup from Experian to work out roughly where someone with cancer lives. They hold anonymous hospital data with postcodes and medical diagnosis. Think of it like a shotgun being targeted at a door but the pellets spread out and hit many targets in a specific area.

However, saying this, one of the people that received the mailshot did so whilst her 50 neighbours sharing the postcode did not. So perhaps from a data point of view there is slightly more to this than meets the eye.

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