In my post about a promising technology for cancer patients, I expressed concern about a mother's comment that if the treatment her son is now receiving doesn't work, "'we have the home run in the back pocket.'”
What's wrong with hoping for a home run?
As with any article that drastically condenses what is often an extended interview, this mother may understand completely that the investigational treatment is unproven. She may have meant "we hope we have" a home run in our back pocket.
Casual readers unfamiliar with the stresses of living with a type of cancer with no known cures might wonder why she wouldn't pull her son out of the current study and start him on the home-run treatment.
Certainly patients are free to drop out of a study any time they want. They don't need a good reason. And researchers and clinicians have professional obligations to accept patients' decisions without judgment and to ensure these patients' subsequent care continues to be at the highest standard.
As a physician-patient, I believe patients have moral obligations to complete a study, if possible. Time, energy and exorbitant amounts of money are invested in each clinical trial. Patients' dropping out can render the conclusions less reliable -- if not worthless.
Next: Would I complete a study if, while on the study, researchers came up with a sure cure for me?