cancerlymphocyteAccording to Dr.Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, pouring so many billions into cancer research is a waste of money. Smith says that cancer is, in fact, the closest one can come to surrealist Luis Buñuel wish for “a slower death.”

As all of us know: there are a lot of ways to die. Some of these ways are much less pleasant than others. With more than 1/3 (42%) of the British getting cancer at one time in their life, and more than $14 billion spent per year worldwide 10 years ago, it might be important to figure out how high a priority treating cancer should be.

Smith bases his argument on a comparison between dying of cancer versus going through treatment and eventually dying of another cause. Especially when we talk about the elderly, we have to consider the physiological, financial, and mental costs of treatment versus the potential benefits. Alongside the financial cost (which can reach up to $11,000 to $35,000 a month), the physical strain of radio- and chemotherapy have been known to lead some to experience increased agony prior to death.

Smith begs us to ask if there might be some benefits to accepting, instead of bitterly fighting, late stages of cancer.

“You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion,” Dr Smith wrote in a blog published for the British Medical Journal.

Although most people would prefer a short and sudden death, this can be harder on relatives and nearly impossible to prepare for. Spending your last time on this planet surrounded by doctors in a completely sterile environment is a very impersonal and psychologically stressful setting. Suffering from dementia and dying of organ failiure, following a half-million dollar cancer therapy, is certainly worse than spending your last time at home, saying goodbye.

The fact is that cancer patients are in the foremost people and secondly patients. Expensive and experimental drugs are not necessarily the best choice for someone who probably doesn’t have much time left anyways. In many cases it can be considered a blessing to have so much warning. After all, it provides the chance to say goodbye and show love before one’s body gives out.

Although continuing research into cancer treatments will surely continue, we should encourage people to ask themselves what they really want. Still, it seems clear that curing early stages of cancer development is a good thing and that continued research into both novel drugs and cannabinoids is worthwhile.