There is something deeply unpleasant about the reasoning of the state for its decision not to call up women over the age of 75 for a two-yearly breast cancer screen.

The health ministry arguments are simple: older women who get breast cancer usually die of something else before the cancer kills them. And if cancer is detected, the treatment is very difficult to deal with and will scarcely increase life expectancy anyway.
Rather than give women the choice, the government seems to assume that older women are not capable of assessing the pros and cons of treatment themselves.
Doctors have even muttered that it is too difficult for elderly ladies to climb the stairs to the mobile screening centres.
Not everyone is happy with patronising attitude. Three women in their 80s went to court to try to get this nasty regulation overturned. But today the judges announced that they back the ministry.
The principle upheld by the court is ageist in the extreme. Basically it is saying – if you are getting on a bit, you are going to die soon anyway so let’s not bother to find out if you have a disease.
Following this line of ‘reasoning’, why draw the line at 75? And why stop at breast cancer? You can live with prostate cancer for years without it killing you, so let’s not bother about screening for that either.
Judges, doctors and health ministry mandarins will all find themselves labelled as ‘past it’ one day. And Sidelines sincerely hopes that no-one will ever, ever deny them a health check-up on the grounds that they are too old.

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