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Cancer Patients See No Relief From State Care

Published: December 19, 2012 (Issue # 1740)



  • Maria Gritsai sitting on a hospital bed while making an appeal for donations in a YouTube video posted in September.
    Photo: COURTESY OF YEVGENY GRITSAI

  • Maria Gritsai in an undated photograph taken before she was hospitalized.
    Photo: COURTESY OF YEVGENY GRITSAI

MOSCOW When Maria Gritsai was diagnosed with late-stage cervical cancer, she didnt spend much time grieving. She knew she had toact fast.

With thesupport ofher husband andson, she turned tothe Blokhin Cancer Center, one ofRussias best oncology hospitals, where thediagnosis was confirmed. Doctors there also gave her some devastating news: Atsuch anadvanced stage, her cancer was incurable.

But she was determined tofight. She began aseries oftreatments, including home chemotherapy sessions that came with harsh side effects, andbought acostly medicine adoctor said she needed tostay alive that would have taken four months toget fromthe public health care system.

Thechemotherapy diminished thetumor, but Russian doctors said they could do nothing more after thesessions were completed.

After her chemotherapy treatments, Gritsai was officially sent off forpain treatment andto live out therest of[her] days, she wrote ina blog entry.

For now, they have given up onme inRussia, she wrote.

She collected donations online andsought treatment inGermany, where doctors said she may have been misdiagnosed because not enough examinations had been done. They said she could have been operated onand cured if her doctors hadnt missed theearly stages ofthe disease.

Gritsai, 35, died atthe Grosshadern Clinic inMunich onOct. 22 but apparently not fromcancer. Doctors told her husband, Yevgeny, that she had been poisoned bythe chemotherapy drugs Cisplatin andXeloda, which are also used inGermany but are accompanied bysupportive drug therapy todiminish harmful side effects andaid recovery.

Gritsais case highlights many ofthe faults with cancer treatment inRussias state health care system, which doctors say suffers fromproblematic legislation, excessive bureaucracy anda lack offinancing.

Gritsais experience, which she described online andin aninterview with TheSt. Petersburg Times inlate September, included lying sick onthe floor ofthe Blokhin center forhours totake ablood test, meetings with indifferent doctors andattempts toperform minor surgery with no anesthetic.

After Gritsai received thegrim diagnosis fromthe Blokhin Center, her husband found adoctor atthe clinic who prescribed chemotherapy treatments forMaria at his own risk. Thetreatments were performed atGritsais home bya local doctor, she said ather home inChekhov, aMoscow region town 60 kilometers south ofthe capital.

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