The Cost of Life, or What’s Left of It

EDITOR: As a break from our regular features relating to computers and technology, I thought we would share with you an interesting piece relating to medical technology and our economy. Its an important discussion, and I thought it might spark some interesting discussions here… Enjoy!

Medicine is a lifesaver in more ways than one – we’re beholden to technology and the advances it has made in the field of medicine over the last century. Scientists and researchers have eradicated various diseases through vaccines and found cures and preventive methods for numerous others. But if there’s one unpalatable aspect of medicine that sticks in your throat, it’s the fact that medical care has become more and more expensive through the years, especially when it comes to taking care of the terminally and chronically ill.

Two recent studies have showed that cancer mortality comes at a high rate. The first, conducted by a team at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, used the willingness-to-pay approach where the amount a person is willing to pay to extend their life by a year was taken into consideration to determine the value of life lost due to cancer in the USA between 2000 and 2020. The estimated figure reached $960.7 billion in 2000 and was projected to touch $1.472 trillion in 2020, if current cancer mortality rates held.

The second study, conducted by a team at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond used the human capital approach where a measure of earnings was used to estimate the value of productivity lost due to cancer deaths. This study estimates the total cost of care-giving, lost household duties and the loss of regular wages at $115.8 billion in 2000.

A similar study at the Health Resources and Services Administration in Rockville took into consideration the healthcare needs of children with autism spectrum disorder and found that the costs of the needs that were met and those that were unmet were higher than that of any other children with special healthcare needs. The families of these children were the most likely to experience difficulties in finance, finding suitable employment and in managing their time. Also, these children had various unmet medical needs.

The above studies brings into focus the stand taken by the Republicans in the recent elections – if they had come to power, we would most probably have seen the anti-abortion law come into effect, and with it, parents would lose the right to decide if they wanted to keep their special needs child or abort the fetus at a safe stage. If  Sarah Palin and Co. had their way, there would be no choice, and parents would stand to lose in more ways than one as the study proves.

The decision relating to cancer is not the same, although it works out to be costlier and more painful. The only way to avoid these costs is to think of legalizing euthanasia across the USA like it is in the states of Oregon and Washington. Terminally ill patients can decide for themselves if they want to go through the pain and suffering and put their loved ones through financial, mental and emotional strain or take the lethal injection way out. It’s hard to decide to end a life, but it’s harder to spend all your resources, both financial and emotional, and still be robbed of your life and dignity at the end of it all.

Yes, the cost of medical care is high, mostly when it comes to terminal and chronic diseases and conditions.

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