How Much Should A Longer Life Cost?
One of the most difficult ethical decisions facing modern society is often stated in financial terms: how much should a longer life cost? It’s a decision inextricably linked with other difficult questions.
Is there ever a moment when life is no longer worth living? If so, who should decide when such a moment comes? The patient? The doctor? Loved ones? The insurance company?
And on what basis should the decision be made? Love? Pain? Medical odds? Money?
Christians who protest that this decision is completely up to God are either ignorant of the facts surrounding most deaths in America today, or else they are in denial.
The reality is this: in our brave new world, doctors can usually continue forcing blood through our veins and oxygen in our lungs long after the mystery which makes us who and what we are has left our bodies. Therefore, at some point someone has to say, “Enough.” This leads us to perhaps the most important question of all in the area of medical ethics, to wit: what is that point, exactly?
To stand by and do nothing as a person dies, while knowing full well that medical procedures could provide another week, or day, or hour, might be tantamount to “playing God.” Or it might just as easily be interference with God’s will to extend mere physical life beyond all hope of mental or spiritual recovery. How can we avoid these two mistakes? In a world of so much medical potential, how should we define “death”?
Unless death comes violently and suddenly, sooner or later most people will have to answer this question for themselves or for a loved one. We can offer no guidance or suggestions on the decision, except to say it can only be made rightly by those most intimately involved, and with much counseling, thought, and prayer.
But we do agree with the author of the article at The L.A. Times link above: may God save us from a society where such decisions are made solely on the basis of a financial balance sheet.