It is unfortunate that since we have so much technology, we as a whole population expect more of medicine and expect everybody to expect more. What do I mean? Well, it seems that we all expect to live longer and if someone decides to allow nature to take its course, we ostracize them. We think they are giving up, we want them to do everything possible, we take them to court if necessary.
Let’s take for example the case of a child born with a severe birth defect. A hundred years ago, they did not have ultrasounds to detect birth defects. If a child was born with any problems, it was not expected to live long. People did what they could but they knew nature would take its course. Today, many couples take advantage of ultrasounds and other tests to determine if there will be any birth defects. This does not always prevent problems because they can occur at birth. But what happens if something does go wrong at delivery or the birth defect is worse than was expected and the child becomes severely disabled? First, the doctor would probably be sued for malpractice. This is quite unfair in many cases because unexpected things do happen and all this creates is a rise in liability insurance and overall costs to health care. But because of technology, everyone expects perfect outcomes. Secondly, the severely disabled child would probably have feeding tubes and tracheostomies to keep it alive. Why? Because advances in technology demand it be so. If the parents decide not to do this and allow the child to die naturally, how would the public react? Not that it’s really any of their business, but everyone jumps in to protect a child’s interest. The parents would probably be dragged into court, declared to be unfit parents and the child would become a ward of the state. Is this fair? Just because of the technology, do we have to use it? Would we rather keep a child alive whatever the cost? No matter that this child will have no useful life? No matter that this child cannot interact with another person, cannot breathe on its own, cannot eat? If we saw an animal in the same shape, do we not shoot it and put it out of its misery? Yes, this is a human but in this condition, is it not a suffering animal as any other? I would rather call it an animal than a vegetable. If we force this child to live, who bears the cost of health care? This being will require extensive medical care for maintenance as well as when infections arise, which is very frequent. Is this really living? Yet how do we give it a dignified death? And as we delay the issue, the debate becomes even harder. Technology has created an enormous burden even as it has saved many lives.