This article appeared May 24, 2012, on page A17 in theU.S.edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Prostate Testing and The Death Panel.
By: TOM PERKINS
A recent announcement by the U.S. Preventative Health Service can rather simply be summed up: Most men eventually get prostate cancer, but most don’t die from it; those who do are mostly over 75 years of age, so that ends their continuing burden on the public purse. Further, early and prolonged testing is expensive, and can lead to medical complications from biopsy examination.
Happily I can report that I have successfully completed my 80th trip around the sun. A few years ago prostrate cancer was detected by my annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test; it was of a particularly aggressive type, as revealed by a routine biopsy.
That test led to surgery, radiation and hormone therapy.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned, and for the last couple of years I have been undergoing both routine and quite advanced experimental therapies, and everything has been monitored and controlled by PSA tests. Happily, the cancer has been knocked off its feet, and though not eliminated, it is controlled to the point that I am writing this fromFijiwhere I am actively scuba diving every day. (Fijiis a marvelous place for that sport, my favorite.)
Life is full of ironies. The PSA test was developed by a Kleiner & Perkins company, Hybritech, in the mid 1970s. How happy I am that Eugene Kleiner and I backed that effort so long ago; the partnership no longer has the remotest financial interest in the field, so these thoughts are not motivated by any residual economic involvement.
It’s hard to avoid a political aside, so I won’t try. A healthy market-driven free economy leads to innovation and the development of breakthroughs, like the PSA test. A highly taxed and highly regulated economy leads to “Death Panels,” like the U.S. Preventative Health Service.
Mr. Perkins is the founding partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, a prominentSilicon Valleyventure capital partnership. He is also a retired director of The News Corporation.