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When Should Life Be Extended?

Over a year ago, I was writing a post about the priority people of different ages should receive, on average, when it comes to healthcare. Some conclusions could be derived from that, and in part they have been pointed out in the post in question, but a recent conversation made me want to spell out my view on this issue much more clearly. I won’t bring society’s views on the matter into it, be they religious, philosophical or of any other kind, but will simply approach the issue of healthcare from this perspective, considering the potential future quality of life for the patient, the resources required and the usefulness of using said resources under various circumstances. In other words, I’ll try to be annoyingly rational about it.

What most people now know is that proper healthcare is expensive and usually available only to the rich. In part, this truly is due to the greed of the companies that control most of this field, but what people also need to understand is that proper healthcare truly uses a huge amount of resources, many of them not available in a sufficient quantity to meet the demand and many others only obtainable through very damaging methods. As a result, it’s a simple fact that, while some treatments or even cures may theoretically be available, plenty of people do need to suffer or, since I’d prefer to avoid suffering unless absolutely deserved, simply die when they become seriously ill. What’s worse, as the amount of available resources keeps decreasing and the human population keeps increasing, the number of people who’ll need to face such a fate will also continue to increase.
Faced with this reality, we need to very rationally determine when would it be justifiable to spend that amount of resources in order to cure or treat a person. It’s obvious that personal wealth shouldn’t be a relevant criterion when it comes to this, so any treatments that require a significant amount of resources should be awarded, not sold. This would require the use of a strict and objective set of criteria in order to determine who should such treatments be offered to, according to the chance of success, the exact definition of said success, the real potential benefit for the patient in the future and, of course, the value the person in question has for the world. After all, those who are making and could continue to make a major positive impact obviously need to get everything they may need before anyone else, regardless of any other factors.

I’ll first point you back to my previous post on this issue and say that age should play an important role in determining who should receive such treatments. If a child is born with or develops serious health problems during the first few years of life, it’s likely that their body will continue to develop problems later even if the initial ones will be cured, not to mention that their development will almost certainly be negatively affected. This could also apply to serious problems that are the result of accidents or infections, as those may not be developed by the body itself but will very likely have long-term effects if they happen during that stage of life. As a result, the solution that makes the most sense in these scenarios is euthanasia while the child is not old enough to fully comprehend what’s happening. It’s harsh, but it’s perfectly logical, because otherwise more and more resources are likely to keep being required in order to continue extending that life, a life which the person is unlikely to be able to make the most of anyway, just because of these constant problems.
Past this point, the deciding factors should be the patients’ minds, whether or not they have others in their care and, if so, whether or not the treatment will allow them to continue to provide such care. People with sharp minds who do have others in their care need to be offered any treatments they require in order to continue to provide the necessary support, while euthanasia is the only logical option for those whose minds are truly going down the drain, those who are simply not intelligent enough to understand life and make even basic decisions for themselves, and of course for those who truly want to die. In between these clear scenarios and excepting a few other truly extreme cases, the priorities specified in that previous post I mentioned hold true, those who have reached the age of ten without serious problems being offered everything they need at the very least until the age of 50, and if at all possible until 65.
When it comes to old people who are not in any of the clear situations described in the previous paragraph, it would depend on how serious the problem is and how well can it be mitigated or cured. If the mind’s still sharp, the person still wants to live and the problem can be either completely cured or mitigated well enough to still ensure a good quality of life without using resources that are desperately needed by younger people, then that life should probably be extended. If not, it shouldn’t be, because it can be said that those people have already lived their life and death would simply be the next natural step, one which anyone who has reached such an age should be prepared for.

I actually had a few more things to say, particularly about some special cases which could be observed among older children and teenagers, but I guess I’ll leave it at this for now. The main point I meant to make was that such systems need to be used in order to make such harsh but logical decisions, simply because it’s impossible to keep prolonging all human lives to the full extent of our current theoretical abilities and because personal wealth shouldn’t decide who benefits from these discoveries and who doesn’t. We quite simply need to determine who’d be better off dead and, out of those who’re better off alive, who exactly is worth saving, according to the available resources and the amount of people who require them.

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