Israel’s former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, died this weekend at age 85, after being in a coma since January 2006. Get that? Eight years in a coma.
The difference between Mr. Sharon and the rest of us is that he was rich as God and could remain, untroubled by anyone’s opinion, in a coma as long as natural life remained in his body. His family saw to that.
Notice the trend that other poorer families are not being given that choice.
“Oooooh,” we gasp, “how selfish of that family to leave that person in a persistent vegetative state (formal term for a coma) when it costs so much money. If their insurance company pays it, it gets charged downriver to all of us, if not outright to the taxpayers.” We kind of symbolically line up outside the hospital rooms of such patients chanting, “Pull the plug, pull the plug.”
Or we act very sanctimonious and very faux compassionate by claiming our heart breaks every time we think about “that family with the little girl who went into a coma after a tonsillectomy” or “that family with the little girl who went into a coma after a dental procedure.” We say we can’t comprehend how they can bear to leave that child alive with no hope of recovery ever.
Only, did we go to medical school so that we now know everything the personal doctors of those families know? Or are we just very opinionated strangers to the situation, pushing an idea that one size fits all in every case of coma?
Do we really believe nobody has ever recovered from a coma?
I blame our armchair quarterbacking of these very private family decisions on the fact that we have raised an entire generation with no concept of privacy. Our young people now believe that privacy is only claimed by people who are doing something wrong! If someone speaks of privacy, they get suspicious!
One size does not fit all. Not all comas are hopeless. And we often can’t tell, upfront, which people will wake up after eight years and which will not.
Some may want to let their familymember go. Some may wish to hold on. Bottom line is, neither decision is our business. It is up to the family.
This is not a decision to be made by public opinion, with people texting in their votes like on American Idol.
If we start assigning a monetary value to the care required for people in comas, don’t be surprised if we wind up at rationed health care (death panels) much sooner than we originally supposed. It is a slippery slope.
It is expensive to repair hearts and brains. We keep hearing rumblings that such surgeries in the U.S. will be restricted to people under 60, as they are in many countries in the world. That is a natural step after determining that people should not be allowed to remain longterm in persistent vegetative states.
Another logical step would be to not treat invasive cancers in people over 60. After all, don’t they have a duty to go ahead and die before they cost their insurance companies too much money or eat up their estates so their children get nothing? (being satirical here)
And it will only go on from there. If you are expensive to treat, people with no sense of privacy will regard it as their business to loudly call for you to “go ahead and die to save the economy the money to be spent on you . . .” Yup, you just got voted off the island, as though life reflected reality shows.
What a cold way to look at life. Many already do that. From the standpoint of a Christian who believes all human beings are God’s image bearers, I can’t do that. Yes, sometimes insurance policies call for a minimum standard of treatment for everyone. There are some new treatments that can be like the Cadillacs of cancer treatments–not all plans may make them available.
But for protocols that have been around for years and are in all insurances, the family and the doctors get to decide which ones to use.
Not a texting television audience, dystopia-style.