Clinical Trials and Cancer: Shaping Policy in Health Care Law

This spring, BC Law Impact is excited to present guest posts from current students about the factors that drove them to BC Law and the impact the community has had on their lives. Today’s post comes from 2L Alexis Kral.

“You have just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and are informed by your health insurance company that you have two options: you can receive the prescribed treatment for the disease as covered by your insurance, or you can choose to forgo the standard treatment coverage and receive a lump sum payment at a percentage of the incurred treatment costs and no further treatment coverage.”

I was walking to work when I heard this scenario from Stephen J. Dubner, host of the podcast Freakonomics. He was trying to gauge audience responses for use in a future show and I immediately imagined what I would do if I were ever in that position. At first, I wanted to press pause and ask for more information. How terminal were we talking about here? What were the efficacy statistics of the standard treatment? Would I be fighting the disease from inside the walls of the hospital, or could I continue my life with minor inconveniences? These questions were the daily conversations I had been having while working in cancer research, so how could I make a decision without the answers? My thoughts soon became less about which choice I would make and more about the underlying issue at play – the increasing costs associated with healthcare.

Before coming to BC Law, I worked in Lymphoma clinical trials research. Clinical trial research stands at the edge of what modern medicine is and can be. Yet, it was eye opening to witness the extent of economic hardship patients faced within the healthcare system, whether at the forefront of healthcare decisions or hovering in the background. I worked towards and witnessed the approval of experimental drugs and how they changed the lives of those combating terminal diseases. However, when these drugs are approved and come to market, the costs associated with ongoing treatment prove economically straining for the patients and their families. The frustrations abound as the promise of these drugs clashes with the economic realities of treatment, leaving patients to make economic decisions rather than healthcare decisions.

Working with both pharmaceutical companies and patients at the mercy of these experimental drugs sparked my desire to pursue healthcare law and become involved in the policy-shaping discussions at hand. At BC Law, I’ve been fortunate to build upon this experience in the start of my legal career. During my 1L spring semester, I applied to various summer internships through the Government/Public Interest job fair coordinated by the Career Services Office. Through that program I earned a summer internship in the Health Care Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Not only was I able to improve my legal research skills over the summer, but I was able to do so in an area of law I was truly interested in. Researching legal issues related to the Attorney General’s public health platform and state medical care regulations only further solidified my interest in the field. I continue to seek out opportunities in this area at BC Law, whether in the classroom or through externship placements in Boston’s growing healthcare and life sciences fields. I’m grateful to BC Law for these opportunities to explore and advance my interest in healthcare law.

Alexis Kral is a second-year student who was driven to study healthcare law after graduating from Wesleyan (CT) University and working in clinical trials research.

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