Rabbi Avi Shafran (Jan. 8) and many Orthodox groups support near-indefinite health care for the terminally ill and vegetative. This view has echoes in the Terri Schiavo affair, during which congressmen scurried back to Washington from all corners of the nation to keep pushing food and water into a brain-dead being.
While many fear government imposition of treatment decisions, society has more to fear from the opposite scenario: that individuals, families, and pressure groups demand open-ended futile funding of health care of negligible social value.
The money spent on health care at the end of life is staggering. Another example is the billions spent on keeping alive and caring for the most seriously premature babies. Such expenditures were unheard of decades ago; to the extent enabled by technology, one wonders if enhanced technology always marks progress.
Orthodox groups should grant greater deference to the call of nature, rather than bowing to the vogue for demands for more and more for one’s self and family in lieu of examining one’s modest standing amidst the greater good. Ceasing artificial prolonging of “respiration” caused by a myriad of man-made machines does not equate with “hastening a person’s death.”
While this expensive treatment is indulged, millions go without basic care, working class people between jobs cannot receive basic medicines, and pregnant women go without prenatal check-ups.