The issue of when a person is truly dead is a very complex one made even more difficult with every advance in healthcare and technology.
This is made even more difficult by the stories one hears of someone thought to be beyond recovery waking up....the “miraculous recovery” that makes the evening news and is widely talked about. The reason that the incident is called a “miraculous recovery” is because they are so rare.
For every miracle there are dozens if not hundreds of bodies kept alive by machines for months and even years at the cost of a million dollars or more per year. The vast majority of these professional corpses eventually die from some complication, usually an infextion. The hard part is it is impossible to pick out the miracle from the machine dependent dead until they either wake up or die.
The fundamental issues in this case are twofold. One is moral and ethical....when is someone actually dead,who makes what care decisions and who decides if and when the plug is pulled.
The second issue is one of cost. The amount of money involved in maintaining a vegetative body is astronomical....a years worth of such care costs more than many people earn in a lifetime. WHO PAYS THE BILL?
If all the costs are born by the patient/family then the choices should be left to the family or their designated representative.
However......99.99% of ALL these cases represent a person who will have these costs paid for by society in some form, either direct write off as an uncollectible debt, via insurance which increases the costs to every policy holder, or the taxpayer ultimately foots the bill. In these cases the decision cannot and shpuld not be solely at the discretion of the family,because it’s REAL easy to spend millions of dollars of OTHER PEOPLES MONEY.
It’s the same issue faced with providing state of the art care for those who are so old and decrepit they will NEVER function as a normal human again yet they receive massive amounts of expensive care to postpone an inevitable death by a few weeks or months.
As long as people expect this care to be provided for them using OTHER PEOPLES MONEY then some process MUST be in place to justify the expense.
In the case in Oakland we are NOT hearing all the facts and in fact not even the truth. The family and attorneys are free to say whatever they like....to try this case in the court of public opinion. The hospital and doctors are bound by HIPAA, they cannot openly discuss this case as the family won’t waive
the privacy rules. Therefore we are NOT hearing an accurate accounting of this incident.
This is not supposed to be US. We don’t give up. If something isn’t working we put our best and brightest on the problem and find a solution.
I agree with you that it’s horrible for the taxpayers or insurance policy holders to pay a ton of money to try to save one life (especially when the odds are so low), but WE don’t throw away our basic morality and values when things get tough.
We cling to those values while we dig until we find a better way.
THAT is the USA. That is the America that I know.