Monday, November 11, 2013

Pulling the plug...

This is a post that I originally wrote on 1/10/2012 in the BOI discussion group here.

So a liberal view says that suicide is ok, because someone who is
experiencing great distress, should have the choice to end that
distress in which ever way she chooses [so long as she does not
infringe upon anothers' rights]. Another reason is that a person did
not choose to come into existence, so that person should have the
choice to reverse this decision that was made for them.

And this idea intersects with the idea of healthcare. And I think a
liberal view says that healthcare should not be paid for by government
at all [including for the old and young]. For now I'll hold on the
idea of the young until we've resolved the matter of the old.

The old are getting older and the healthcare costs are rising
dramatically. Keeping somebody alive at 100 y.o. costs considerably
more than at 90, which costs considerably more than at 80, and so on.
And the way it stands now, the middle aged are paying for it. But the
ratio of non-working vs working is quickly getting larger. So this
seems like another spiral effect situation. And spiral effects don't
end well. So what is the solution?

Consider this thought experiment. A 90 year old has an accident and
almost dies; she slips into a coma. She is hooked up to machines that
keep her alive. Her family hopes that she recovers. Time passes. She's
still hooked up to machines because her family hopes that she
recovers. If she were conscious she might ask to be unplugged; but we
have no way of knowing. More time passes. Her family still hopes. More
time passes. They still hope. Where does this end? When her body
finally fails? Is this the right solution? Now lets add the idea that
the entire hospital stay was paid for by taxpayers. Is this
acceptable? What if this went on for 20 years? What if this scenario
happens 100 years from now when our technology is better and people
can be kept alive indefinitely, i.e. their body does not fail. Is it
right to keep her body alive for hundreds of years or for ever while
taxpayers are footing the bill?

Absolutely not. So the question is, where does the line get drawn? I
think its simple. There is no line to be drawn. Either an old person
pays for their healthcare to stay alive or she doesn't and dies. This
seems cold, but if you disagree with me, then consider the above
thought experiment; where would you draw the line? And if you choose a
position on this scale to draw this line, what will you do when the
scale changes [as it necessarily will as older technology gets cheaper
and new technology arises]? Will you try to move the line with the
scale? How would you choose that? What rational process would you use
to make such choices?

And I'm not suggesting that old people should die. Their children
could pay for them. And if they don't want to, why should I have to
pay for someone else's old parents? I have the choice to pay for my
parents when they are old. And I want to retain the option to not pay
for somebody else's old parents.

What do you think?

This is the healthcare debate that I mentioned above:

-- Rami

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