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Dr. Paul Hsieh Forbes Magazine Article

Jul 28, 2020
Dr. Paul Hsieh Forbes Magazine Article
patients were skipping appropriate medical care for important exams

Dr. Paul Hsieh, a musculoskeletal radiologist with Invision Sally Jobe, recently wrote an article for Forbes magazine encouraging screenings.

“Delayed Cancer Care Due To Covid-19 Could Cost Thousands Of Lives”, Paul Hsieh, Contributor, Opinion, covering health care and economics from a free-market perspective.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the various lockdowns undoubtedly prevented many deaths due directly to the coronavirus. However, many physicians noted that patients were skipping appropriate medical care for other conditions (such as stroke or heart attack), leading to other avoidable deaths.

Furthermore, many state governments (including in my own state of Colorado) imposed bans on so-called “elective” medical procedures. Many physicians wondered what size toll this might take on patients delaying tests and procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

We now have an estimate. According to Dr. Norman Sharpless, director of the US National Cancer Institute, their models indicate there will be approximately 10,000 excess cancer deaths over the next few years due to these delays. Some will be caused by a delay of diagnosing a cancer until it has progressed to a more advanced “stage.” Some will be due to delays in supposedly “elective” surgeries to treat already-detected cancers.

Furthermore, this estimate only includes excess deaths due to breast and colon cancers, not other cancer types. So the actual excess cancer death toll could be considerably higher. (To put this number in perspective, the total number of US deaths due to Covid-19 is estimated at roughly 120,000.)

As health reporter Elizabeth Cooney notes, the numbers of mammograms performed during the pandemic dropped by somewhere between 75-95%, depending on the source. This is bound to have an effect on breast cancer detection and treatment success rates.

This is just another example of Bastiat’s principle of “the seen vs. the unseen.” The lockdowns undoubtedly saved many lives. But they will also cause an increase in avoidable deaths in ways that will only become apparent afterwards.