Advancements in medical technology are made every day. Diseases are being cured, and better treatments are becoming available for the diseases that are not. As a result, people are living longer, and some medical problems that once killed, now do not. Almost anyone would agree that living longer would be great, but for patients’ suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other debilitating disease, a longer life is just more time to suffer. Prolonged life has become a topic of ethical debate, and there are many things to be considered when discussing it.
When asked to choose between quality of life and length of life, most people would probably choose quality over length. In an article by Katy Butler she found that, “30 percent of seriously ill people surveyed in a hospital said they would rather die…patients with advanced heart failure said they would trade one day of excellent health for another two years in their current state” (Butler). Once they have lost their ability to take care of themselves, their quality of life suffers. They are no longer able to enjoy life the way they once did. Every person deserves the right to determine whether or not quality of life is more important than length of life, but in some cases they are not.
Part of making that decision is being informed. Often older patients that benefit from these life-extending technologies are not properly informed of the pros, cons, and alternatives (Butler). Most patients would refuse aggressive treatment knowing that their suffering would be drawn out. One of the reasons for this lack of understanding is that some patients are too ill to discuss the decision. This leaves the decision to the loved ones who might not be aware of what the patient would want done. Without being well-informed, patients might choose to go with aggressive treatment unaware of the possible outcomes.
Some may argue that doctors purposely provide a lack of information in order to receive the financial incentives associated with performing the aggressive treatments. With many doctors operating in the fee-for-service medical economy, aggressive treatment makes them more money than discussing the outcomes and alternatives in detail. Researchers have estimated that about Medicare spends close to 150 billion dollars of its budget in unnecessary tests and treatments (Butler). Incentives for pursuing aggressive treatment should be eliminated, and doctors should be rewarded for giving their patients the best options. The only way to solve this problem is to intervene on medical market systems, and create a new plan of action. The medical industry should not have such high profit margins. That only proves that patients are being overcharged for medical services. Getting rid of incentives, could help to solve the problem of uninformed patients. In turn, these patients and their loved ones will be able to make the right decisions.
Another big issue in the debate of ethical issues in these life-extending...