Hakan Yazıcı

Lawyer hyazici@yazicilegal.com Twitter: av_hakanyazici

It is a human right to live in a healthy environment.. (Photo: Fernando Zhiminaicela, Pixabay)

We are in the sixth month of our struggle to prevent the further spread of the Covid-19 virus. We have begun to discuss much too late the costs we have paid and will continue to pay in many sectors, especially the economy, due to this pandemic. Or rather the decisions that are taken to cope with it. However, do you know what it is we discuss the least? It’s what has become of the other diseases. 

I want to point out now what I want to say at the end; the patients suffering from diseases other than Covid-19, are paying a higher cost than Covid-19 patients. And this will continue to be the case unless the Ministry of Health or the doctors do something about it.

The State is obliged to procure and protect the public health as per article 56 of our Constitution.  As per the same article, it is a human right to live in a healthy environment. The Ministry of Health has, for months now, Brough everyone’s focus on one peril only: COVID- 19. Unfortunately, so have all the doctors I know of. With the great effect of this behavior by the Ministry of Health and doctors, no one wants to go near hospitals or doctors, with the fear (which is justified) of “contracting Covid-19”. We do not comprehend what the cost of postponed controls, diagnoses, and treatments will be. 

A serious blow to public health

Let me give a few examples of the data I have gathered. There has been a 90% decrease in mammographies made with suspicion of breast cancer during the 2.5-month quarantine period. When we analyze the mammographies made after the quarantine, the onset-stage cancer diagnoses have been reduced in half, whereas advanced cancer stages have tripled in number. This means that those newly diagnosed with breast cancer were in the onset-stage before the quarantine and the life expectancy of an onset-stage breast cancer patient for the next 5 years is 70%. During the quarantine period, the cancer of the majority (triple the former ratio) of breast cancer patients, who did not get scans or tests due to the fear of “contracting Covid-19”, have advanced or gotten diagnosed at an advanced stage and the life expectancy of these patients for the next 5 years is 30%. 

Let’s assume the total number of breast cancer diagnoses in Turkey in 2020 will be the same as the 2018 numbers announced by the Ministry of Health. These ratios mean over 1500 additional breast cancer patients who would not have normally died may die within the next 5 years. This will be the price for just a delay in breast cancer diagnoses.

Those with illnesses pay a heavy price

I want to emphasize it again. We would have been able to save a majority of the onset-stage breast cancer patients during the quarantine period. Now the majority of them will not survive. If the Ministry of Health would make the number of breast cancer patients who would be dead because of the quarantine precautions public, along with the daily Covid-19 numbers, (the credibility of which has fallen with the statements of few governors) I believe that this number will be more than the total of COVID -19 cases until today.

This is only one cancer type and newly-diagnosed patients. There have been cancer diagnosed patients who did not go to their doctors, clinics, hospitals for their treatments. Think of the rest: those suffering from diseases requiring colonoscopies, cervical cancer tests, pregnancies getting a late ultrasound, and so on, all due to the fear of COVID- 19. If the Ministry of Health is not doing anything, not even as little as designating 1 out of every 10 PSAs for this cause, then it must have repercussions in the elections. And what about the doctors keeping quiet about all this? Unfortunately, there are those fighting for public health as well as those looking the other way.

The responsibility of the state

Don’t think this is different in other countries as well. In England, the cancer diagnoses have diminished to about 5.000 cases per week, during the same 2.5-month period.  Those people still developed cancer, however, because they chose or felt obliged not to go to the hospital, their diseases will be diagnosed later, there will be more deaths and harder treatments for the rest.

We have begun paying a high cost of decisions taken with fear or without knowing why. Those who have created the circumstances that make us feel like we have to make these decisions should be trying to hide the reasoning behind these decisions because we cannot dispute their decisions without knowing the reasoning behind them.