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Clinical Shutdown: Critically Ill Patients Caught In Bureaucratic Nightmare

National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Christopher Ziemnowicz/Wikimedia Commons)
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Christopher Ziemnowicz/Wikimedia Commons)

For some critically ill patients, the government shutdown feels like a matter of life or death. And it has nothing to do with funding or defunding the Affordable Care Act.

The patients in question have pinned their hopes for survival on clinical trials funded by the the National Institutes of Health, and without that money, the studies are being halted — some of them before even they start.

For one man suffering from end-stage bile duct cancer in Boston, the shutdown means his upcoming clinical trial can’t be registered on a federal website forced to stop processing applications. That trial has been indefinitely postponed.

He says traditional chemotherapy is no longer shrinking his tumors. The National Institutes of Health estimates that for each week the shutdown continues, its hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, will have to turn away 200 patients — 30 of them children — seeking to enroll in studies.

Reporter Deborah Katz and researcher Dr. Thomas Michel join Here & Now to discuss the short and long-term impacts.

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Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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