Personal

When to Pull the Plug

Every family hopes that whenever a relative gets admitted to the hospital, that relative will be released in a matter of days or weeks feeling healthier than before. You hope that despite the high cost of healthcare in this country, it will be worth it, because no amount of money can replace a human life.

But there will be those moments when hope is bleak, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There are moments when you question, up to what extent should you “save” a life? What if the patient has been in the intensive care unit for two months with stage 4 kidney and lung cancer, and is already 71 years old? What if your family has spent an equivalent amount that can send two kids to Harvard Business School, and it seems like there is no hope for improvement? But what if that elderly patient wants to cling to life, and her sole daughter is still in college?

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I wasn’t able to sleep well last night because of those thoughts. The head of our family, my 74 year old uncle, is the one who decides on these things and he’s the one paying for most of the hospital fees for his brother, but I still feel responsible. You have to contribute what you can. I’m amazed that he’s willing to spend his lifetime savings to extend the life of his brother for only a matter of weeks or months. I hope it could be years, but we had to face the facts.

Sunday family lunches have been tense because of the situation. I can feel that as much as possible, everyone is trying to avoid talking about it. As an economist, I would like to ask if spending a hundred thousand pesos a day justifiable to extend the life of a person who is dependent on machines to eat, breath and perform all basic functions of a living being. In these situations, when do you pull the plug and admit defeat?

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