HEALTH -- October 2, 2013 at 4:40 PM ET
Government shutdown forces hospital to turn patients, including children, away
As the nation's largest hospital devoted entirely to clinical research, the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center is home to cutting edge science and groundbreaking medical studies. It even serves as a "hospital of last resort" for patients when standard treatment has failed and there are no other alternatives.
At least it did -- until October 1st when new patients had to be turned away because of the government shutdown. These patients would have been part of new clinical trials -- and about 200 of them have already been turned away. According to NIH Director Francis Collins, this includes about 30 children, many of them cancer patients.
The clinical center is currently performing close to 1,500 clinical trials, and these will continue during a government shutdown. But no new trials will be permitted to start. And all the experimental studies the clinical center conducts will be put in stasis for the duration of the shutdown.
"If you expected new treatments for cancer or a new universal influenza vaccine or discovering the causes of autism were going to move forward at the maximum it could, that will not be the case...This is a profoundly discouraging day."
The clinical center has treated more than 475,000 research participants since it opened in 1953. It helped develop the use of chemotherapy for cancer, was the first to treat AIDS with AZT and advanced the use of gene therapy in medical treatment.