Quality of life is a hot topic for many Americans with several high profile media stories regarding this issue in recent years. Up to 70% of people want a high quality of life in their final years over an extended lifespan with a poor quality. With advanced technological care, people can prolong life for an indefinite period of time. The cost involved can be exorbitant however and it will not reverse the final outcome.
Medical Care for End-of-Life
While most people do not wish to live longer if they do not enjoy the time, palliative care is important. Palliative care for the disease process is defined as the concept of preventing pain and suffering rather than treating or curing the symptoms. This provides a greater quality of life. Health insurance companies generally cover this type of expense and patients are able to live their remaining days comfortably. This differs from hospice care, in that the patient does not need to be terminal to get this benefit.
The Ethical Dilemma of End-of-Life Care
With the current state of health insurance coverage, many people cannot afford the astronomical prices affecting extending their lives. In addition, there is an ethical question regarding who deserves to live and who does not. An alcoholic who continues to put their life in jeopardy even after repeated treatments or an Alzheimer’s patient who does not recognize even their close family may need expensive medical treatments that they can afford. Meanwhile, someone who eats healthy, exercises and takes care of themselves may be struck by a debilitating disease and unable to pay the cost of the associated health care. Deciding who lives and who dies by financial means is often seen as elitist.
The Opposite End of the Spectrum
While many people claim that they desire quality of life over quantity, they still believe that there should be a health care system that pays for any potential treatments at the end of life regardless of the expense. The fear that the health care coverage may be subpar if these treatments are not available is concerning and needs to be addressed in the political arena. Unfortunately nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens have had experience with this problem in some capacity and emotions tend to run high when they or someone they love is personally affected with an end-of-life decision.
Drawing the Line
Because there are so many choices and alternatives for end-of-life quality of life care, there are many issues that the public wants addressed. Drawing the line is difficult as no one can agree on where the point is that the medical community should say enough. In addition, there is little agreement on when there no longer a return on investment in medical care. Until these things can be defined, it will be difficult for policy-makers to determine the course to take on health care coverage.
However, it is universally clear that the topic of quality of life versus quantity is a subject that needs to be discussed. There are huge implications for the future of health care and the people of the United States, medical providers and politicians will need to work with private and public insurance companies to make their voices heard.