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Lessons of a $618,616 Death

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the hundred-twenty-four-bucks-a-page dept.

The Almighty Buck 651

theodp writes "Two years after her husband's death, Amanda Bennett examines the costs and complex questions of keeping one man alive. The bills for his seven-year battle with cancer totaled $618,616, almost two-thirds of which was for his final 24 months. No one can say for sure if the treatments helped extend his life, and she's left with a question she still can't answer: When is it time to quit?"

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Mixing up advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31387986)

Fail early, Fail often

Re:Mixing up advice (5, Insightful)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388018)

Though it may not have done much for him, the same treatments may have better results on others on average, and therefore be worth it. Or maybe not. Also, medical bills tend to be grossly inflated, so the real cost may have only been something like $150,000. It's a quadruple the price and give the insurance company 75% off scam (but still charge the cash customer the over inflated price, partly to make up for cash customers who don't pay).

Re:Mixing up advice (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388034)

I would ask at what point did HE stop wanting to go through all the medicines and procedures?

If you ask me, that's when it should have stopped.

Re:Mixing up advice (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388114)

Some diseases come result in a shorttime depression, which means that you can't just let people die because they don't want to live for a day or two. They c

Re:Mixing up advice (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388138)

God speed, lad. His suffering was so great, he couldn't bear to finish his post before pulling the plug. :(

Re:Mixing up advice (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388172)

Sometimes the patient might want to stop, because they feel they are causing you trouble and wasting your money (i.e. the patient is your mother or father or husband).

You however must show them you love them and keep on trying. This will make it worth in the end.

Re:Mixing up advice (5, Insightful)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388270)

Sometimes the patient might want to stop, because they feel they are causing you trouble and wasting your money (i.e. the patient is your mother or father or husband).

Yes, this is a problem with any sort of expensive care, especially the long-term kind.

You however must show them you love them...

Yes, that's always important.

...and keep on trying. This will make it worth in the end.

I'm going to have to go with no. In the end, it is not your position, my position, or the loved one's position to choose how or if a patient should continue treatment. It is the patient who will have to live with the consequences of their choices and to take away those choices with a mantra that one must "keep on trying" regardless of the futility of the action condemns people to situations where they are forced to endure needless suffering to placate the wishes of others. If it is wrong to coerce or steer people to give up, it is certainly as wrong to coerce or steer people to keep on trying.

Re:Mixing up advice (3, Funny)

pookemon (909195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388318)

What the HELL are you doing on Slashdot. You don't belong here! Your well thought out, concise post, that takes into consideration the feelings of the dying person is just not heard of!

You're OUT there - way OUT there. There's something wrong...

And your sig almost makes it seem like you CARE about OTHER PEOPLE. Be careful, you might impress someone! Like me...

Re:Mixing up advice (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388438)

Okay, how about this then...

Are you like hot.. and stuff?

That make you feel more at home on slashdot, or should I just start spewing out random car analogies, math solutions and have a crack about privacy/microsoft/overlord?

Re:Mixing up advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388134)

This is why you wan't free healthcare, dumdidum... I know, kill the socialists for being privileged!

Re:Mixing up advice (1)

carlhaagen (1021273) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388206)

Even $150k for this treatment is far more than we "socialist" Europeans pay for equivalent healthcare via our higher taxes. Your system is broken.

Re:Mixing up advice (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388226)

Did you RTFA? It was longish, but very enlightening.

Re:Mixing up advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388234)

We like it broken, JACKASS!

My time is worth $15 an hour (1)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#31387992)

My time is worth $15 an hour (plus benefits). My time alive is priceless. (But I haven't lived while suffering cancer, either)

Definitely not priceless. (0)

elucido (870205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388058)

If you only make $15 an hour this should be an indication as to your worth. But if you really want to know how much your life is worth, find out how much it would cost to have someone take your life and you'll receive an answer.

Re:Definitely not priceless. (4, Insightful)

annex1 (920373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388162)

Only make $15/hour? I'll assume that you make considerably more than that. If that's the case, you become a bigger loser for trolling around on /. for what "you're worth" versus what "he's worth". He's wasting $15/hour and you are wasting considerably more. When did hourly income become the value of an individual?

Re:Definitely not priceless. (4, Funny)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388224)

Reagan era?

Re:Definitely not priceless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388236)

When did hourly income become the value of an individual?

Since we are talking about hours of your life time. $15 one hour (of your life), that's pretty straightforward, no euphemisms.

You sir, are an idiot. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388202)

Value is subjective for absolutely everything. Even paper with absolute numbers printed on them.
Your example about hiring someone to commit murder is over-simplified. Murder is illegal and has stiff penalties, including life imprisonment or capital punishment, which is trading one life for another.

To your group of family and friends, your value approaches inf. whilst the state might glom you up into it's statistics, and assign you a value of around $15.00 per hour

And if you were to threaten my life, I would kill you for free. Free as in beer, and free as in freedom.

Re:Definitely not priceless. (3, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388220)

If you only make $15 an hour this should be an indication as to your worth.

You don't know what the benefits are. Maybe he gets to bone supermodels. Many men would accept a negative hourly rate for that.

Re:Definitely not priceless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388442)

See, now, if only companies offered benefits such as those instead of "spending an extra two years of life in a vegetative coma taking cancer drugs".

Re:Definitely not priceless. (1)

Ogi_UnixNut (916982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388380)

In which case the average life is worth between 800-1600 Euros? I disagree. I'd argue your life can't be measured in worth. The best you can do is see what has been invested in it, both in time, and money (education, feeding etc...), and what is the value of that which you can contribute back to the world.

Everyone believes their life is priceless. (4, Insightful)

elucido (870205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388066)

The truth is sometimes the exact opposite and usually somewhere in between.

Happiness (3, Interesting)

mr_zorg (259994) | more than 4 years ago | (#31387996)

It is only time to quit when the patient ceases to be happy. As long as they are still in good spirits and enjoying their life, keep trying...

Re:Happiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388028)

It is only time to quit when the patient ceases to be happy. As long as they are still in good spirits and enjoying their life, keep trying...

Euthanize the depressive!!! Yay! Better be in good spirit, suckers!

Re:Happiness (3, Informative)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388086)

Euthanize the depressive!!!

I'm pretty sure he's restricting his proposition to the terminally (or likely terminally) ill.

Re:Happiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388140)

So, you are not allowed to be in bad mood about being terminally ill?

Depression is one of the most common psychological conditions cancer
patients have.

Might as well stop treating all of them.

Re:Happiness (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388274)

If you are gonna die anyway, what's the point in keeping you alive if you don't want to? It's stupid to artificially extent the life of a terminal patient just for him to be miserable a little bit more time. Just stupid.

Re:Happiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388368)

Everyone is terminal.

You won't get out of life alive.

LIFE is the leading cause of death. We should stop it.

edit:
Ok... thats creepy......
Captcha: embalm

easy (3, Interesting)

zerojoker (812874) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388006)

try to estimate cost vs. life expectancy in a function and derive the local maximum.

After all, when it comes to health we should never forget what a life is worth... in terms of hard currency.

Re:easy (2, Insightful)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388112)

It's easy to attack an economic analysis of health care as cold and calculating, but at some point we need to admit that it's not worth spending half a million dollars to keep an 80 year-old-man alive for an additional month.

Admittedly, it's harder in some situations (like in the article where the person is 67) than in others.

Re:easy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388184)

Where I live, we have a saying among the population:

"You can afford to die, you cannot afford to fall sick."

After glancing at the article, I can't stand to read it. I don't think I can hold back my tears. So, no RTFA for me.

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388414)

Actually, in the US, dying is expensive. My ex-wife's father passed away about 15 years ago at the age of 61 from a long-term battle with heart disease. The death benefit paid to his widow by social security: ~ $250.00. That's right, 250 _DOLLARS_. He had a decent job and paid SS tax his whole life. That payout barely covers the cost of a couple flower arrangements at the funeral. Total cost of the funeral, which was relatively small and FAR from extravagant, was in the order of $15-20k USD.

Only in the US.

Re:easy (4, Insightful)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388434)

Try saying that when the man in question is your father.

Try saying that after watching your father's last week of life on hospice protocol.

Intellectually, you know there's nothing more that can be done but make him comfortable.

At gut level, it isn't the same.

(And in case you're wondering, the above is not hypothetical. I wish to God it was.)

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388312)

"try to estimate cost vs. life expectancy in a function and derive the local maximum. "

Obama's death panels will do that only for Republicans.

once the inheritance is secured (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388024)

Since women are only in marriage for the money, I would say it's time to quit once the husband is too weak to change his will.

Maybe she can answer in hindsight (4, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388026)

Maybe she can decide at this point "hey, we should have stopped fighting here and just put him in hospice care", because she knows when he finally succumbed. But sometimes people beat cancer (rarely or often, depending on the cancer). Let's say early on they decided to go the hospice route, and he died. What is she going to think when she opens up the paper and find a story about a guy with the same cancer who lasted another 20 years?

It's really easy to draw a line on a chart and say "anybody on the right side of this line has such a bad prognosis it's just not worth the money to treat them. It's a lot harder when it's your mom.

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388040)

It's a lot harder when it's your mom.

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (1, Flamebait)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388152)

so from all this you picked the last sentence to make a joke. How old are you, 10?

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (5, Insightful)

cedars (566854) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388244)

In fairness, the fact that someone can crack a "your mum" joke in this discussion scares me a lot less than some of the other posts here that suggest "your life = your salary."

The truth is your life is worth more than your salary. For starters, even if you only wanted to focus on money, it's not just your salary that matters but your potential future salary. However this thinking is still severely flawed, humans do a lot of activities that aren't costed. They care for people, fall in love, contribute to the cultural and political life of society, write open source software, complete volunteer work and provide social engagement for others.

We should never underestimate the value of surviving, surviving is what humans do, everything else (including sex) is just a footnote.

Maybe we can just take the right away from her. (-1, Troll)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388132)

If the person is over 45 and statistics say that there is a high probability they will suck up health care someone else would do better getting don't let the insurance company pay for it. Instead only allow them to offer hospice or a Dr. K Klinic visit and a nice state paid funeral.

Re:Maybe we can just take the right away from her. (3, Interesting)

Kijori (897770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388264)

Having private health insurance and then not letting people make use of it seems to be the worst of both worlds...

Re:Maybe we can just take the right away from her. (4, Insightful)

cedars (566854) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388266)

I'm guessing from that comment you're fairly young because the truth is there's a lot people do after 45. Many people (including CEOs, judges and surgeons) reach the peak of their career after 45. If you had kids at 28, they still wouldn't be adults by the time you turn 45.

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (1, Insightful)

kramulous (977841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388156)

I read somewhere just recently that apparently Americans have the worst survival rate with cancer because they believe god will help them more than what science will. That has a big effect on outcome.

Listen to your doctor.

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (1, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388190)

I read somewhere recently that unsourced claims and statistics rarely convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you.

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388322)

I understand you don't like the result, don't worry, it only affects those who are religious. The American slant was what appears to be 'African American Women' and breast cancer. I need to be at work to do a much better check and get the exact papers.

http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar?q=health+outcomes+cancer+god&hl=en [google.com.au]

Re:Maybe she can answer in hindsight (5, Informative)

Kijori (897770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388314)

The studies I have seen put American and European survival rates at about the same level, with normally a slight advantage to the Americans, although critics point out that reporting differences (for example, in Great Britain anyone diagnosed with cancer is included in the survival figures, while in America deaths that may not be related are not counted, plus many American hospitals publish only estimated survival percentages rather than actual counts), differing access to treatment (if you don't go to the hospital you won't get counted, which could stack the deck against socialised healthcare) and uncontrolled variables (incidence of cancers is lower across much of Europe, possibly because of differences in the health care systems) make comparisons contrived at best.

How much is your life worth? (-1, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388048)

Your life is worth your salary. If you don't like it, perhaps you should take it up with your boss?

Re:How much is your life worth? (5, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388136)

``Your life is worth your salary.''

Actually, my life is worth a lot more than that. The boss only pays for what I give him, but there is a lot more I do in life.

Re:How much is your life worth? (4, Insightful)

kramulous (977841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388142)

Dude, the work you do is not anywhere near as important as what you think it is.

Take a holiday!

OT question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388316)

"Take a holiday!"

The clocks at Slashdot seem to be on holiday... Anyone else notice the one-hour shift in time stamps? Bizarre. We don't Spring Forward for another week...

Re:How much is your life worth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388168)

Yes! because people getting huge bonuses for shuffling around imaginary money are worth so much more than say scientists or volunteers.

For instance the CEO of Goldman Sachs has clearly been a 1000x more useful to society than say Einstein, or Bohr, or Turing, yes, a 1000x more useful than all of them combined.

Re:How much is your life worth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388188)

...1000x more useful than all of them combined.

Well, yeah [youtube.com] .

Wrong question (0, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388054)

She shouldn't be deciding at all. How the hell is she qualified to discuss such matters? These things need to be left in the hands of experts. The common people have all sorts of crazy ideas when it comes to health care, and it would be a lot better for everyone if the right choices were made for them.

Just $200 more... (5, Funny)

throwaway85 (1658473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388056)

...and he could have at least said his death was palindromic.

Re:Just $200 more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388384)

...and he could have at least said his death was palindromic.

You insensitive clod!

So how much was for actual medical care? (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388062)

There is a HUGE amount of overhead in US health care starting with a massive markup on medicine which isn't seen elsewhere and ending with the support of a lot of middlemen.
It doesn't matter if it's private or public - what matters is removing the leeches and profiteers from the system and turning it back into medicine instead of a protection racket pretending to be insurance and hospitals where care is an afterthought. The doctors are not the ones getting rich and if you want to see a nurse laugh ask them if they are rich.
I doubt that the same amount of care elsewhere with the same treatments under a public system would have cost the taxpayer anywhere near one fifth of that. Remember folks, it's still a drain on the economy even if rich sick people are the ones getting ripped off instead of the taxpayer - it still hurts everyone to an extent.

What is that for a question? (5, Insightful)

Gernot (15089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388064)

You should _not even have to_ ask yourself this question - healthcare should never put such responsibility into an affected person's hand!

The US seriously needs to fix its healthcare system.

Re:What is that for a question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388284)

The US needs to fix its healthcare system? I could mention ideas, which may or may not lead to a long thread of comments. But, it is so sad that our idiot members of Congress probably wouldn't act on any intelligent ideas put forth.

Remove the public option? Make it mandatory that people have health insurance? They're kidding, right? They remove potential competition against the insurance companies, then mandate that most everyone have coverage or face like a 2.5% income tax "fine"? Why don't we just send the poor directly to jail, or perhaps forced labour camps?

About the article, which I barely briefly skimmed: What about a living will, asking the person's wishes before he or she is hospitalized? Money shouldn't be an issue to these sorts of questions. Personally, I'm toying with the idea that if I'm ever in a coma, that if I'm not out in one month (31 days), to pull the plug. But maybe it's my belief system.

Health Insurance in Germany (1)

koinu (472851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388082)

When you look at my taxes, I pay each month, you'll also find the amount of mandatory health insurance. It's about 300 euro a month and the employer has to pay an additional 300 euro (50%/50%).

So remember when I warned you that your social system is better than ours in the "oh-so-great-EU". You'll pay in ONE month more than you pay for actually being ill for 2 years.

Re:Health Insurance in Germany (3, Funny)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388128)

So remember when I warned you that your social system is better than ours in the "oh-so-great-EU". You'll pay in ONE month more than you pay for actually being ill for 2 years.

If you used the comma as a decimal separator, you could reduce your medical costs by a factor of a thousand!

Re:Health Insurance in Germany (3, Interesting)

thasmudyan (460603) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388200)

In your case it's 300 €, but keep in mind that the amount you pay for insurance is directly linked to your income, not to how much you've been sick last year. You could argue it's unfair that you have to subsidize a bunch of students and old people for a while, but it sure beats any other system I've seen. I agree it's not fun to pay the insane amount of insurance and taxes here in Europe, and yes, a huge part of it is going to be wasted on government pork and mismanagement. We need to address that. I'd speculate we could cut those insurance premiums in half if we abolished all the profiteering, corruption and misappropriation. But all in all, it's the price we pay for a pretty decent attempt at social equality.

Re:Health Insurance in Germany (1)

koinu (472851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388232)

The real problem is, because it does not cost much to see a doctor, people go there when they have a pimple. The average German goes to see a doctor over 20 times a year for nothing. Wtf? I have to pay for this. And when I am sick, I still to have pay for medicine that soothes my pain. Even vaccines are not free, I paid about 80 euro for Hepatitis protection, because I went on holidays to an affected country. Because it's all not free. All you get for free is antibiotics and how much does this stuff cost? 600 euro? Maybe during 40 years of being ill regularly, yes.

Re:Health Insurance in Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388332)

All you get for free is antibiotics ...

Sounds like a wonderful way of breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Re:Health Insurance in Germany (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388370)

The average German goes to see a doctor over 20 times a year for nothing. Wtf? I have to pay for this. And when I am sick, I still to have pay for medicine that soothes my pain. Even vaccines are not free, I paid about 80 euro for Hepatitis protection, because I went on holidays to an affected country. Because it's all not free. All you get for free is antibiotics and how much does this stuff cost?

You do know that a doctor gets _one_ quarterly amount of money by the insurance company for appointments with a
single patient, irrespective of how often the patient visits him, as long as he visits once? You "subsidize" patients who visit
the doctor 20 times a year with the same amount of money as someone who visits him 4 times a year.

Vaccines required for holidays no one forces you to take are one of the very few kinds of commonly needed medicine
that you have to pay for yourself if you have public insurance.

Fancy looking tooth replacements in places others would not see when you smile are another. Cosmetic stuff costs extra.

EVERYTHING ELSE is paid for by the insurance company. If a doctor prescribed it, of course. Saying that only antibiotics
are paid for is a blatant fucking lie.

By the way, you certainly know that here in Germany, we _do_ have private insurance companies. Paying 300€ a month
for health insurance, you certainly earn enough to go with them. What is holding you back? You won't have to subsidize
anyone! Their rates are actually way cheaper in your case, as you seem to be healthy. Go with them and stop complaining.

They won't take people with pre-conditions though.

Easy (4, Informative)

LatencyKills (1213908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388090)

It's time to quit when the patient says it's time, and it's not the business of the spouse, the church, or the government to decide otherwise.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388146)

But who pays the bills? The average cost of health care per family is about $14k, that means at least 44 family-years of payments went into extending his life for perhaps 18 months.

Re:Easy (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388208)

Listen, the point is that the patient will want to stop because they are causing you trouble and waste your money.

Your reaction should be not to stop and keep on trying to show them you love them. In the end that's the only thing that will remain.

Life is more than money.

Re:Easy (2, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388278)

Yeah, that works as long as the patient is conscious.

The question becomes somewhat more difficult when the patient doesn't look, medically speaking, like he's ever going to wake up ever again.

Individual Cases (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388098)

I think this sort of thing cannot be decided in general. You would have to consider the individual case.

As far as I am concerned, I believe interpersonal relations should be mutually beneficial. I wouldn't keep someone else alive just because _I_ want them to live; they have to want it as well. Similarly, I wouldn't want others to keep me alive just because I want to live. The last thing I want is for my loved ones to spend all their time, energy, and money so they can watch me suffer longer, when they could instead let me pass away and find happiness with the billions of people still alive.

Get a better health care system (2, Insightful)

kramulous (977841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388110)

My mum suffered a seven year death with cancer. It certainly didn't cost anywhere near that. Dad has just retired this week, I shit you not, with his new wife (of one year, mum died 2001) and is very healthy with money. Mum would have died in that first year without the excellent public health care system that Australia has (or rather, used to have).

You really need to focus on the important things and stop bitching about the little, meaningless crap.

Time to quit? I never got to have the 'now I'm older, what made you the person you are?' talk with my mum. Dad focuses on the future and won't talk about what used to be. Kids will eventually want to know.

Quit when you are sick of fighting or when your kids are ready for you to go.

Money might not be the first question (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388120)

Was there at any moment a point where it was said that whatever they would do, it would not help or the chances of helping where minimal? And how successful would a recovery be at that moment? Would they be living the same live they did before, or would they be clustered to their bed for the rest of their life?

The chances of success could be a big indicator as well. If you pay $10.000 for treatment and that treatment is 100% it a no-brainer. You go for it. If the success rate is 50% then you might still risk it. If it is 1% success rate, some will still risk it. What if it is 0.001% Then the money factor might become important. If you have it, you pay. At that point people will pay the money for snake oil and it becomes a question if the treatment is really a treatment or just a way to get more money from you and/or do experiments on you.

Each individual will answer those questions differently. If the knowledge would go to the public, I would not have an issue. If the knowledge goes into some patented medicine from some company sueing everybody else who found a cure of what I have, I am not sure. Unfortunately they will say "Either we give you this medicine that might save you live for free and we take your soul or we let you rot."

You, free choice can be a bitch.

Tis a sad day (2, Insightful)

bguiz (1627491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388150)

It is a sad day when one decides to value the dollar worth of a human life.

Re:Tis a sad day (3, Insightful)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388258)

Yeah, it's even sadder for the people who are forced to make that decision. They don't LIKE to. But SOMEONE has to, to save more lives.

After just watching The Matrix again ... (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388166)

I can only use words like "inevitable." I've lost loved ones in various ways... the inevitable grandparents, a parent, a son, friends... It's just another ending among many types of endings just as there are many types of beginnings. I'm neither happy nor sad about either. I just can't think in those terms any longer. Have I grown up or have I simply grown numb or indifferent. As I still enjoy life in general and can't help but smile at the antics of my youngest son, I doubt numb is what I have become. I think I have learned better than many how to let go and say goodbye. That lesson came easy when my mother died after a long agonizing time of waiting... for the inevitable. When I got word she died, the first word that came to mind was "finally" and I was happy... well, relieved is a better word. I didn't want her to die, but it was better than the suffering she endured for several years.

I think it would be good for everyone to get it through their heads that life always ends. It is merely a matter of time and circumstance.

The parties wanting more than half a million dollars from all of that will likely never see all of it. Insurance may cover some of it, but who knows what manner of weaseling they will muster up to lighten their own damages. The wife will not be able to cover the difference unless they were particularly loaded and I don't really care. I think the money could have been better spent on happier things. My favorite gifts are the ones I give to others and that are truly appreciated and enjoyed. I can't imagine someone spending that much money prolonging my own suffering.

Isn't slashdot for cutting edge IT news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388174)

Like a lot of slashdot stories lately, why is this even on slashdot?

Healthcare costs during lifespan (2, Insightful)

sciencewatcher (1699186) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388186)

The amount of money spent on healthcare during the lifespan of a person in Europa is normally divided as follows. 50% for the last year of someone's life and 50% for all years up to the last year. The problem is trying to determine when the last year of someone's life starts.

exploitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388194)

1. patent drug treatments.
2. suppress cures.
3. ???
4. profit

Free healthcare (Scandinavia etc.) (5, Interesting)

carlhaagen (1021273) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388196)

In f.e. Sweden, the cost for this case, over 7 years, would've been a staggering whole lot less in the shape of the extra taxes we pay here for our free healthcare (yes, I do consider it free after all). Over here, everyone helps to pay for everyone, and people get the care they need without being subjected to "pay lots, or get out". Over there, people die, or go broke in the process of staying alive.

Just sick? (1)

Arkan (24212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388198)

This is like putting a price on one's life. Even asking such a question is disgusting, and shows a complete lack of humanity.

I can't even imagine the mindset that can push someone to formulate such a question.

I think this is an huge hint that our society as a whole as gone south. Prove me wrong, please prove me wrong.

Re:Just sick? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388350)

It is not putting a price on life.

It's merely deciding whether you value quality of life over quantity.

Selfish? (1, Flamebait)

ebonum (830686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388216)

If I was in his position, I would have let it go. When the odds of a successful outcome are low, I would consider it a hugely selfish act to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars on my own treatment. If I was really rich, perhaps I would spend more of my own money on a few last ditch attempts and continue the treatment. Even then, when I reach the point that I can no longer be active enough to enjoy simple pleasures outside without assistance, I'd let it go and leave the rest to family or donate to a good cause. I completely fail to understand why anyone should be forced to pay for my personal expenses.

Enjoy life while you can when you are active and healthy. All good things do end. When you are bed ridden and on the way out, let nature take its course.

Re:Selfish? (4, Insightful)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388408)

It's pretty easy to say that when you're not facing a terminal illness. No one can truthfully say how they will react to a very difficult decision like that until it actually happens. We can say how we would hope to react, but to suppose we would make a better choice than someone else is dishonest and arrogant.

How many other lives could that money save? (3, Insightful)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388218)

Yeah, it sucks for him, but I bet I could find ten other people who could live six years longer on average with just $60,000 to spend on their health care. Medication they couldn't afford, living conditions that are toxic, not having enough food, being in need of rehab, hell, just finding cancer early so it can be treated. Not to mention what impact that money would have in third-world countries. $600,000 kept him alive for seven years...That could be two reasonably-paid people working full-time on HIM ALONE, for seven years straight. Think of what else they could do, what other benefits they could bring to the world. Or hell, that money could pick a smart but poor high-school graduate out of Wal-Mart and put him through medical school to become a doctor. Yes, there's a point where the money ought to be spent on someone else...especially when it's public money.

Stupid argument - money wasted elsewhere (2, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388302)

Since it's less than the price of Carly Flonina's stupid Devil Sheep advertisement who are we to say it's more of a waste of money?
There must be quite a few health care executives with no medical training or medical experience at all that get paid far more annually than that. There's a vast industry and only a tiny proportion of it is focused on health care, most of it is about carving out monopolies to maximise profit - you can forget about the "free market" because it does not apply.

2 choices (1)

mtjs (918147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388228)

    - You don't start helping and let go
or
    - you don't stop helping till the end.

Yet you will never know if you took the right choice for the right reasons.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388240)

Money doesn't come out of thin air (as much as the US government might think otherwise). We all are paying this $618k bill.

Stories like this happen every day. Over a year, this is many millions of dollars which you and I are somehow paying for.

How much of your money are you willing to spend to prolong a total stranger's life?

$1? $10? $100? $1000000.

IMO, America needs to start being realistic about money and the fact there are limited resources available.

You're Sick! (2, Insightful)

Putr (1669238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388248)

How twisted have you Americans become that you even ask yourselfe this question! When a mans(or womans) life is at stake, money has no value! That's why we have Universal helth care, so that you dont have to care! (I'm pissed but I'm going to stop now.)

Re:You're Sick! (5, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388338)

If you're really pissed about this, then you haven't really thought it through.

Natural resources are finite. The supply of human labor is finite. It is impossible to expend infinite amounts of resources extending human life. You've been lied to if you believe you don't have to care about these truths. And if your government is the one who has told you this lie, that just means that they will take on the responsibility of reconciling any disconnect between your perception and reality, by force, whenever necessary.

keep someone alive if they can recover (1)

distantbody (852269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388292)

How about 'Keep a long-term poor prognosis patient alive with your own resources'. It's a tough approach, but keeping someone with a bad diagnosis alive when they would have died a long time ago is cruel and unnatural, and stretches the 'public healthcare' mission a bit too far.

Economists' approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388294)

There actually is a mathematical approach to determining the monetary value that a person associates with their own life by measuring the price they are willing to pay to reduce their risk of dying. Economists use it by comparing job safety to salaries, people's willingness to buy certain automotive safety features, etc.

Here's a very crude approximation. (IANA economist, so feel free to correct me.) Suppose a demon comes up to you and says that he's about to push a button on a magic box. When he pushes the button, there's a 99% probability that nothing will happen, but a 1% probability that the box will kill you. However, he offers not to push the button at all if you pay him a monetary bribe of a certain size. (If demon accepts your bribe, he takes the money 100% of the time, regardless of what the outcome of the button-press would have been. Assume that you can trust the demon's honesty and that there are no externalities, such as "paying him will only encourage this sort of behavior.") If you think you can't put on a monetary price on a human life, consider: you'd be an idiot not to pay a mere $1 to reduce a 1% chance of dying to zero, but if the price is your entire net worth, you're certainly better off taking the 99% chance that you'll be able to continue your life tomorrow without being a penniless beggar. Hence, there must be a number between those two extremes such that paying less is a good idea but paying more is a bad idea. Suppose you rationally decide where that boundary is. Multiply that number by 100, and you have the cash value of your life.

There is no time to quit (1)

egnop (531002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388310)

Allthough I agree a little bit with fluffeh:
- I would ask at what point did HE stop wanting to go through all the medicines and procedures?
- If you ask me, that's when it should have stopped.

I've been through that process with several people that eventually died,

The main thing that keep hopes up is that they will find a cure for the problem within the time frame.

Yes, I know, it sounds like irrational, but missing the one you love is keeping up taking the effort of holding someone alive

And that point, that very fine point is the point where you just keep going, and don't quit.

There is no time to quit until reality and rationality wins in your hopes...

Lessons of a $618,616 Death (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388340)

This is why most of the rest of the world has gov pay if you want/need it.
If you can afford it you go private, great, for others you have the gov option.
The only question then is personal and medical - are the drugs working, are the complications worse than the treatment with no positive long or short term result.
Does the person want to continue with the meds or pass away at home?
Costs should not come into into healthcare -
Why spread the cost over young healthy people and non sick people ?
Think of 1 loss of a sick person - net loss to the tax system is one sick person.
Think of 1 loss of a sick person and the debt of a family in the $618,616 world?
The stress and loss of 1,2,3 + tax paying productive workers as they feel the long term $618,616 stress?

Why make the choice? (0, Troll)

Bartab (233395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388346)

Taxpayer bankrolled (what some call, "free") healthcare means never having to decide when spending the money isn't worth the value anymore. Spend millions on the last week of life? NO problem! Everybody -else- will pay for it, and you can still pass on your financial portfolio to your kids! Win win! Well, except for all the people paying. They're losing.

Questionable Source (3, Interesting)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388358)

Why is it when we have health care discussions, the media tends to quote widows and widowers? They are not experts in health care and they are not unbiased. Sure, her story is interesting and compelling, but does it tell us anything useful about medicine in the US?

The cost of Healthcare (1)

Guru Jim (301633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388362)

I worked in ICU for a while and the statistic that gets through around there is that often 75% of a person entire healthcare bill is spent on their last stay in ICU. Dealing with palliative care is a little different, but based on my experience with death and dying, it is up to the patient. When they think it is time to go. A lot of the therapies are pretty invasive/painful/make you feel really bad, so a lot of it comes down to a kind of risk/reward. You also get the healthcare system you pay for. In from Australia, and healthcare is a lot cheaper here than in the US, but the US has a lot more aggressive interventions that save more lives. If you want to cut the cost of healthcare, sure doctors wash their hands! [healthbeatblog.org]

what? why? (1)

user138 (568586) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388392)

As someone who as dealt with this issue... If it were your family, would you pay the cost? It's up to the patient. F the bills... it's about being alive. Why is this on slashdot... ya.. making money on sick people is (as far as i can figure) wrong. and contrary to being a caring human (and yes i understand the capital consequences of this argument). j.

600K is quite low (3, Informative)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388406)

The cancer must have been one of the aggressive ones. I see the 600K billed is on the low side. The actual payments to the providers would have been less 125K. Typically the terminal patients generate 1M$ in bills in their last 24 months. And generate about 300K in actual payments if they die in a hospital.

easy enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31388422)

it's time to quit when he doesn't want to extend his life or when you *are* sure that the treatments wont help extend his life.

I think that it's pretty much always worth it (4, Interesting)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31388428)

True, it's horrendously expensive. But that money pays for research, and that research will allow people to stay alive or even get cured a lot cheaper later.

People aren't going to pay half a million for battling cancer forever. At some point it'll be understood and become curable with a few of the right pills and injections. But for that to happen, somebody needs to try the less understood or experimental treatments and see if it works out.

Incidentally, I believe that paying for the "vaccine for nearly a quarter million children in developing countries" is on the long term a rather pointless thing. Doing it that way we'll just be shipping vaccines over there forever. Instead, money should be invested on infrastructure in those countries that need it, so that they can manufacture their own vaccines. Also, actually allowing those countries to manufacture them by eliminating the need to obey the patents would do a whole lot more of good.

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