This mom with a rare form of cancer can't get treatment she needs due to government shutdown

Michelle Langbehn. Photo: Natural Grace Photography, via Washington Post

Michelle Langbehn has a rare form of cancer that affects about 1% of U.S. cancer patients. She was diagnosed in April 2012, shortly after giving birth to her daughter. She was 29.

She spoke to the Washington Post about how the government shutdown has affected her. The short version: she can't get the life-saving treatment she needs; a clinical trial that provides an option in a case where other more well-established treatment protocols have failed.

The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff explains:

After nine months of chemotherapy, she and her doctor began looking into other potential treatment options, including a trial at the National Institutes of Health. Langbehn began filling out the paperwork to apply last month. Things were going well until late September, when she got a call from the NIH: If the government shut down, the trial would not accept new patients. Now, she is among an estimated 200 patients turned away each week from clinical trials there. Langbehn has started a petition asking the government to re-open the treatment option.
“This was not supposed to happen. Nobody wanted the shutdown to happen," says Langbehn. "If I had a message, it would be that lives are at stake.”

“This is a matter of life or death. I’m not just doing this for myself. There are 200 people that are trying to get into clinical trials each week. I want to speak for all of us.”

"People don’t want to be enrolled because they're doing well," Langbehn says. "They’re looking because of something that's wrong. For them to have that taken away, it almost makes you want to lose hope in a way."

Related Boing Boing posts:
• "US gov shutdown may mean some kids with cancer won't be treated, CDC's outbreak detection programs also halted"
• "Meet two cancer patients whose treatment is on hold due to US gov shutdown: an 8yo girl, and a father of 3"

Notable Replies

  1. She's wrong. The right was planning this shutdown for months before it happened, and just wait til you see what they have planned for this winter.

    Just wait for the other shoe to drop: her Republican congressman is going to pass the hat and get her the best treatment and a heartwarming photo opportunity, while simultaneously fighting to prevent tens of millions of Americans from getting basic health care. And the press will look the other way.

    EDIT: Woops, I see I'm a week out of date - thanks Lamb.

  2. Could someone explain how it is that some bits of the federal government are able to function, but others are not?

    While most of NASA is shut down, bits of mission control that are essential to keep things running on the ISS are kept running. The same is true of bits of the EPA, CDC, FBI, NSA etc.

    Are certain parts of the budget somehow protected? Is there an emergency budget that covers certain pre-determined bits of the federal government while the rest is shut down? Who gets to decide what gets shut down and what doesn't?

  3. wygit says:

    Yes, the House Republicans would like the ability to pick and choose what departments get funded and what departments don't.
    That's what the whole shutdown is about.

  4. Mmm; more like the "whole shutdown is about" nothing more than sour grapes (and a dose of thwarted teenaged John Galt/Dagny Taggert fantasies).

Continue the discussion

16 more replies