The Costs of Extending Life (and How to Deal with them Humanely)
Modern medicine and new technology offer numerous opportunities to extend the lives of many Americans. Recent developments have made it possible to allow even those with terminal illnesses to live longer than they would otherwise be able to without medical attention. However, two important questions often go unasked, simply because many people find them distasteful or offensive, explains Charles Laverty. Those questions are as follows: what do we have to gain from sustaining the lives of patients with terminal diseases—and what do we stand to lose?
If those questions sound callous, consider the costs of providing care for patients whose deaths are inevitable. Many terminal conditions occur during old age, and most medical expenses occur in the last six years of a person’s life. Therefore, the longer someone holds onto life in their final years, the higher their medical expenses are likely to be. However, many old or infirm people in America do not cover their own medical expenses with the premiums that they pay. Instead, younger people such as middle-class earners often find themselves paying higher premiums to help offset the costs of providing for the sick and elderly.
While transplant patients wait for organs, octogenarians with terminal diseases get unlimited—at that point, broadly subsidized—health care resources that have no hope of extending their lives or curing them. Any system that hurts vulnerable people to provide for others is morally indefensible. However, there are models in other countries we could look at, which call for valuing human life in another way: namely, respecting the point at which it cannot be extended.
Charles Laverty speaks of effective ways
Our resources are currently limited, and we must think of the most effective ways to allocate them. In our current system, it is not possible to provide ubiquitous care for all people regardless of their circumstance. Capitalism demands that we consider the economic consequences of providing healthcare for people before we consider the human cost of withholding it from them.
We should not be extending life at the expense of those who have their whole lives ahead of them. If our priorities are to lower costs for some of America’s highest earners, we may have to consider cutting the cost of providing certain services to others. In the absence of ambitious reforms aimed at changing the entire paradigm behind our healthcare system, there may be no other alternative.
Continue reading another post about the Sad fact about Healthcare reform by Charles Laverty.
written by Charles Laverty