Everybody has a contract with death as nature demands. Everybody dies when his or her time comes. However, it is in nature of many people to desire to live for as long as they can. In other words, people never accept death and would hold on to their dear life for as long as they can. It is for such reasons that hospitals are filled with people at the verge of dying, but having doctors do as much as they can to keep them alive despite the pain one might be experiencing. Additionally, most of this people have mere chances of living. Doctors continue to feed them with loads of treatment that come with more severe consequences, making their final moments much worse than they would ever want. So much money is used on expensive treatment instead of going towards making lives of other people better. What need is it to continue treating a patient with expensive procedures instead of making them comfortable in their last moments, when death is obviously knocking. For sure, there is no need.
Currently, medicine is at its advanced level with technology capable of treating and reversing critical illnesses. This is provided for in the intensive care unit. The intensive care unit is supposed to help in treating reversible critical illnesses for a reasonable duration of time. However, the quest for prolonging life towards the end of life has seen doctors exceed with the use of intensive care. Many people refuse to allow their loved ones to die comfortably and prefer having them go through treatment in the intensive care unit. At this time, all the doctors do is torment the patients with expensive treatment that has little or no chance of reversing the condition. This makes prolonging of life worthless.
Cauvin provides an example of a 94-year-old woman patient with irreversible conditions forced to go through too much treatment that made her last moments of life unbearable (2012). Alice was admitted to the hospital from a nursing home after she could not eat. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with several conditions, which included, “… dementia, small cell cancer, pneumonia, sepsis, severe dehydration, a urinary tract infection, kidney failure, and respiratory distress” (Cauvin 2012). At such an age, any disease could prove fatal to the person. With all these condition, even a young person would have less chances of survival. Most surprising, the doctors worked hard to treat her conditions through all means possible. Some of the treatment procedures included, “giving her antibiotics, putting her on intravenous fluids, balancing the out-of-whack electrolytes that were causing her kidney failure, and providing feedings via a tube…” (Cauvin 2012). At this time, swallowing was a problem as well as communicating. One could realize the pain she was going through from her expression and reaction. Doctors failed to provide her with comfort procedures due to her conditions.
From this example, it is obvious that Alice had little time to live and nothing could be reversed. The life expectancy of a human being on average is 75 years. Thus, she was already old and nearing death. Treatment is a right for every person despite age. However, when the treatment can change nothing, there is no need of continuing. Rather, the patient should be made calm and comfortable to face their death. If making them comfortable means hastening their death, it would be better than having to prolong her life to endure more pain. In the case of Alice, strong pain and physical distress relievers could have stopped her pain. Because of her low blood pressure, such comfort procedures could have fastened her death. However, it could have been better for her than having to go through all the pain caused by trying to prolong her life. Prolonging life to make it more unbearable even for a few days when treatment is futile becomes a waste of time and resources.
On the other hand, those who advocates for prolonging of life suggests that it would be good to have life prolonging treatment in order to have family members close by when one is dying. According to Hospice Patients Alliance, “Dying is about finishing up the “unfinished business” of one’s life and preparing for what’s to come,” (n.d). This is to suggest that one should prolong life in order to finish businesses such as having family come together. It further suggests that is can buy time for allowing friends and family members to come and say their final words. This is quite okay since some family member could be far and having them around at the time of death is quite comforting.
However, to refute this idea, people with critical illnesses are diagnosed some time before their death in most cases. Thus, when one realizes they have little time to live, they should not wait until the last minute in order to finish their businesses. It should be finished up early when one realizes they have little time to live. With medical advancement, time of death or the time one has to live depending on their condition can be predicted. Thus, one could have enough time for finishing their business. Additionally, many people die sudden death such as through accidents where one dies on the spot. Such people do not finish businesses. Rather, families only come to burry their dead.
Prolonging life has become a hot debated issue with many finding it a waste of money as well as torture to patients whose death is extended. Prolonging life puts the patients in unbearable conditions after undergoing through relentless treatments that come with devastating side effects. The side effects make life unbearable, leaving patients with pain they would rather not experience. In addition, the treatment is quite expensive and takes many resources that could be used to make other people better such as through prevention. Therefore, life prolonging is not worth if all it does is extending the dying process while making lives of patients unbearable. Rather, actively dying patients should be made comfortable as their death approaches to avoid suffering.
Hospice Patients Alliance. Prolonging Life in the Actively Dying. hospicepatients.org, n.d. Web. September 22, 2012. Viewed from http://www.hospicepatients.org/hospic31.html
Cauvin, Eugene. The Toll of Prolonging Life. The Hastings Center, 2012. Web. September 22, 2012. Viewed from http://healthcarecostmonitor.thehastingscenter.org/eugenecauvin/the-toll-of-prolonging-life/