Where should be limits in medical intervention? When is enough simply enough? Who’s to pay for any excesses? … It’s an ethical kind as well as other sorts of dilemmas, such as the legal sorts or the kinds related to the emotional trauma involved.

Recently an associate of mine, Steve K., sent me this link with the following comment:

Fluid-Filled Bag Lets Lambs Develop Outside the Womb. Humans Are Next.

Another high-tech abettor of population growth?

The bag article reminded me of several scenarios:

The first is that now we are often saving children born at one pound after birth, but often they have, for the rest of their lives, significant brain and bodily damage so that they will need expensive intervention throughout their lives until the day that they die. … Grab a soup can or something else dense and compare the imagined size of a one pound child with the can’s weight.

This begs another question: What are we doing to help healthy children, who are born in countries wherein they haven’t enough food and even basic medical support?

Moreover, I know of a woman, who was married to a Marine (whose family has free or close to free medical coverage due to his military status), whose fetus developed a giant tumor on her buttocks in the womb. It was almost as big as the fetus itself and would have ended in a miscarriage except for her religious convictions, which is that God gave her this baby for which to care and it is a test from God for her faith – a burden from God that she cheerfully accepted.

So the mother went ahead to have en vitro surgery to remove most of the tumor and when the child was born prematurely at around seven months, she was put in an incubator while having a deformed leg and foot due to the tumor having pressed on them.

Premature babies link to rise in child blind … Premature babies link to rise in child blindness: Number suffering sight problems after being born early up by 22% in a decade

  • One in 20 severely premature babies likely born blind, research shows
  • 12% increase in those aged under five registered blind or visually impaired
  • A quarter of parents said they had to wait more than a year for diagnosis

The end cost for the Marine’s and his wife’s child? It was around a million and a half taxpayer dollars for all of these interventions until the time that she was finally able to leave the hospital after a premature birth to go home with her parents.

However, now the child is nearly blind, nearly deaf, partly crippled due to the leg and foot deformity, brain damaged and cerebral palsy inflicted. So lots more medical and other expenses, including special education, are involved … at taxpayer’s expense. … And I’m not even considering about the fact that this child will NEVER become a healthy contributing member of society.

Is the child happy? It is hard to say since the brain damage probably related to premature birth is so severe.

When is it time just to let go is my thought relative to this deformed fetus that turned into a child with many grave afflictions. When do you just let nature take its course?

Here’s another example that begs the question:

Two people in their thirties, both with cerebral palsy, met while living in a nursing home. Lonely to be with people their age, they hung out together since everyone else in the home was elderly. Then they decided to marry and petitioned the state in court for a home.

Yes, they got one and around-the-clock care for themselves by nurses (two on each eight hour shift  24/7) for themselves and their three children that they had, which included, of course, at least one with the parents’ disease due to genetic loading from both parents.

Once again, the taxpayer pays for this situation through Medicaid. Is this right or not right? You be the judge.

Here’s a third case:

A person has been living in a brain-dead coma for years. S/he is kept on life-support through machinery. It is very expensive. … Who has the right to “pull the plug”? Who should make that decision? The government, the hospital, the next of kin or …?

Here’s the fourth and final example:

My grandfather was dying of cancer. He was over six feet tall and had gone down to around 110 pounds due to the disease and was on morphine drip due to the pain.

He was, it seemed, going to die that week, but my uncle not being able to let him go, wanted to keep him alive for another two weeks by giving him an almost total blood transfusion. The thought of that horrified my grandfather and, so, he begged my father, the legal executor, to not let it happen.

My uncle irrationally blamed my father for killing their father prematurely. So be it. My father agreed to my grandfather’s wishes and he had a dignified death in spite of his massive physiological and psychological suffering due to cancer and his fear of dying.

Life is full of difficult decisions. Nobody likes seeing a relative or a fetus die. Yet where do we draw the limit in life going forward?

My father knew the answer. Who else does?

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.

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  1. Bob Stuart says:

    This is another conundrum that arises from our new medical discoveries. Judging the value of a life is fraught with problems of bias, as with anything around eugenics. The rule-maker always ends up with better personal odds. Anyone involved in counselling for peaceful acceptance of fate can be confused with a heartless beancounter. This is unfortunate, as so much comes down to a person’s hopes and illusions setting the limits for kindness. Their popularity matters even more when negotiations are under way, and that may on may not be honestly won.
    We could use four more examples, of people dying for lack of care. The last time I checked, the low bid for saving a life through charity was eleven cents.

  2. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Though death is certain, the fact that some diseases are incurable leads to psychological trauma. Medical system has progressed a lot with scientific inventions. And yet, death comes in various forms. It can be delayed but so far, there is no possibility of total relief from ‘ death’