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The Almighty Buck Medicine

Lessons of a $618,616 Death 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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Lessons of a $618,616 Death

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  • Happiness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mr_zorg ( 259994 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:22AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:00AM (#31388690)

      Being happy is a small and IMHO sometimes a petty or selfish reason. I AM dying from liver failure. I do not want to have a transplant or go through the expenses. I don't want my wife to struggle through the remainder of her life because I love her too much to see her suffer by being poor again.

      I'm very happy even with everything that is happening to me. I'd rather live a good life of quality than a long one without.

  • easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zerojoker ( 812874 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:23AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:10AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by john.r.strohm ( 586791 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:09AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by corbettw ( 214229 )

          No one said the decision is easy. That's why it's so important to have living wills, so that your loved ones know what you expect and can be freed from making gut wrenching decisions when the time comes.

        • Re:easy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:57AM (#31389230) Homepage

          This is so weird to me. At a gut level, I want people to end their suffering. What bizarre torturous form of "love" demands that you keep dying (sometimes zombified) people in struggling in pain until their last breath?

          • Re:easy (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:48AM (#31389774)

            What bizarre torturous form of "love" demands that you keep dying (sometimes zombified) people in struggling in pain until their last breath?

            It is hope. People hope to see their relative healthy again. They remember seeing a person healthy. They miss it, and they want to see it again.

            Unfortunately, some of the treatments are ineffective. They might extend life, but they will never restore health. Medical procedures are graded by mortality rate over periods of time. Ex: 50% survival at 5 years. The goal needs to be different. Effectiveness should be judged by time outside the hospital without extensive medical intervention. 50% of the time, this procedure gets you 3 more years with your family. A subtle and significant improvement.

        • Re:easy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:10AM (#31389968)

          A co-worker was an ER nurse.. She would tell me stories of people that insisted that they revive grandma, even though she had signed DNR letters. If there is any question or argument, their legal team says to always revive.. So they would get someone that wanted grandma revived, which the process of CPR would usually break ribs, and lots of other bad stuff to a frail 80 year old.. She got really frustrated trying to explain that yes, they could revive her, but she was going to die in the next week or possibly 2, and that she was going to need so much pain medicine that she wouldn't be able to talk to them anyways...

          People just can't cope with death very well.

        • Re:easy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:04PM (#31392526)

          The one thing I can remember of my father dying was the useless suffering of brain cancer in the last two months. Even when he cried out that he wanted to die doctors said he was not "able to decide". This even though he did in fact already put this on paper, and had the support of everybody around him.

          My mother died two years after that, struggling with the same disease fortunately in a different spot. After a while she stopped the normal medical treatment and decided against a second surgery. She died peacefully after having taken time to say goodbye to everybody she loved. It did take a long time for her to accept her fate though, and choosing to end your life that way is certainly not for the weak of heart.

          If anything is wrong with the current medical system is that it tries way too hard to safe lives. It should focus on the quality of life instead. It should certainly be able to make hard choices in this matter. And most certainly it should allow patients to make their own decisions (and stop religious groups interfering with such matters.) With the savings we can make the life of a whole lot of persons a lot better.

  • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:28AM (#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.

  • by throwaway85 ( 1658473 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:39AM (#31388056)
    ...and he could have at least said his death was palindromic.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:39AM (#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.
    • by meander ( 178059 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:17AM (#31388488)

      In Australia, the last time I looked, around 90% of the lifetime medical expenses is spent on the last year of life. This has been true for decades.

      You think you are doing good stuff, but all too many suffer and die. As a GP, my role is to keep folk alive. If I was a complete rationalist, I would work out some way of stopping useless treatments, but unfortunately that is usually only obvious in retrospect.

      I counsel folk on the pros & cons of cancer treatments.

      Sometimes it is obvious you are flogging a dead horse, and really they should pull out and enjoy their last days in comparative health, without the misery of chemotherapy et al, with the horrible side effects, and before you recover, the cancer catches up to you & you die in continued misery. I kept one of my mates out of lung cancer chemotherapy (in this case there really was no chance), and he enjoyed his last few good months without being stuffed by chemo. His family still thank me years later.

      Then there are the less obvious cases, where the therapy may help, but usually just adds to life's burden of misery, worst just before they die.

      Then there are the successes. They are wonderful, but not that common.

      Sure, some guys making chemo drugs make a lot of dollars, but what drives most medicos is that we care, and we are not very good at pulling back when things are hopeless, because sometimes we succeed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        To add to this, the goal of cancer treatment isn't only remission. We treat patients to make them more comfortable as well. Excision of the primary tumor and using chemo and radiation to shrink inoperable sites prolong life to an extent, and we have good data on this, and reduce their symptoms but also have the tertiary benefit of improving the quality of life remaining. I don't think many critics understand how excruciatingly and inescapably painful cancer can be. A comment on cost: the older and more
    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:20AM (#31388510)

      It's not just insurance, which is why I don't understand the current debate as making insurance the only bad guys.

      I know someone who broke their leg. While in the waiting room, they asked the staff for a blanket because they were cold. They got an equivalent of an airline blanket in size and quality. The hospital charged him $395 for it plus labor.

      Someone else I know needed aspirin. The staff got him one and charged $725.

      I went to the hospital for stiches. Got an X-ray to check for metal parts. Had no insurance. Got charged $3500 or so. They didn't even stich, just stapled 20 staples.

      There's a lot wrong with the picture.

      • by throbbingbrain.com ( 443482 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:31AM (#31388896)
        First, an aspirin costs $500 when they dispense to 500 people and only one person pays for it.

        Second, I remember a time when, if someone needed stitches or a cast, they went to their doctor's office. The ER was where the ambulance took you if your brains were hanging out of your skull.
        • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:13AM (#31389400) Homepage

          Second, I remember a time when, if someone needed stitches or a cast, they went to their doctor's office. The ER was where the ambulance took you if your brains were hanging out of your skull.

          Yup, but then again I remember a time that if you got a minor infection after this happened you couldn't have sued the doctor for a few hundred thousand dollars for not performing the treatment in accordance with the general standards of care, which generally translates into the best possible manner of rendering the treatment generally available.

          Or, another illustration:

          Suppose an oncologist advises a patient that it might make sense to just make the most of their last few weeks on earth and not suffer with chemotherapy. The patient dies in a few weeks. The family talks to a lawyer and a bunch of experts second-guess that decision and the doctor could easily end up paying a fortune for prematurely ending a life.

          Suppose instead the oncologist just tells the family what the best care available is, and discloses the side effects. The patient goes through agony and dies in a few weeks. Well, what do you expect from chemotherapy, the doctor has given the patient the best care available and that's just how things go. Family's insurance pays the $100k bill and no lawyers are involved. Doctor gets paid more for administering the treatment.

          And then we wonder why healthcare is so expensive... NPR had a really great two-part program on these sorts of situations a few months ago.

          • by Fished ( 574624 ) <amphigory@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:50AM (#31389786)

            The problem is that the best interests of the doctor are not aligned with the best interests of the patient. Instead, we've got a situation where the best interests of the doctor are to "play it safe, spend as much as necessary, preserve life at ALL costs (because that won't get me sued)". The tail is wagging the dog, in the form of a very small percentage of patients who will someday sue their doctors.

            However, the solution is not tort reform--in the sense of limiting verdicts--because the problem is not the size of verdicts. The problem is the things that doctors do in over-the-top efforts to avoid really frivolous lawsuits. (Believe it or not, many doctors are devastated when they lose a patient, and to then be sued by the patient's family just makes it worse. So, to defend their own self-image, they of course do *everything* they can to avoid being sued. Which is very expensive.) I think something more akin to the "good samaritan" laws, where the nature of a doctor's obligations are spelled out, would be a better choice.

      • by FriendlyPrimate ( 461389 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:42AM (#31390296)
        I just had to pay $1300 in out-of-pocket expenses for my daughter to get a single stitch (emergency room visit because it was after hours). And the doctor was on the fence as to whether nor not she needed one. Had I known it was going to cost me $1300, I would have used a band-aid.

        There is a HUGE disconnect between medical services and pricing. How many of us ask doctors about how much something is going to cost? How many doctors tell us this information up-front?

        That's why I think there should be a law that hospitals/doctors MUST present you with a bill BEFORE they do anything (except in the case of an emergency). i.e. they're not allowed to charge you for anything unless you've signed the bill for it first.
        • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:04PM (#31394178)
          "I just had to pay $1300 in out-of-pocket expenses for my daughter to get a single stitch (emergency room visit because it was after hours). And the doctor was on the fence as to whether nor not she needed one. Had I known it was going to cost me $1300, I would have used a band-aid."

          Maybe the reason the health care system is overburdened is because some people bring their kid to the freaking emergency room for a single stitch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AGMW ( 594303 )

      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.

      My Dad was a doctor - a GP - in the UK and back in the 80's I remember him telling me about "medical insurance" for Drs, in case you get sued. He told me that Drs in the US paid more in insurance premiums than he earned per year! Who's benefiting from that and who's paying the cost!

  • by Gernot ( 15089 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:39AM (#31388064) Homepage

    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.

  • Easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by LatencyKills ( 1213908 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:46AM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:56AM (#31390420)

      Yeah, but language in health care legislation to encourage people to create living wills (when they are neither demented nor unconscious and can still make such rational decision on their own) was eliminated because people referred to such discussions as "death panels".

      So, instead, more people have made no such indications until they have severe dementia or are in a coma, and then next of kin (spouse usually) have to make the choices, because otherwise the doctors would be making them on their own.

  • by kramulous ( 977841 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:49AM (#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.

  • Tis a sad day (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bguiz ( 1627491 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:00AM (#31388150)
    It is a sad day when one decides to value the dollar worth of a human life.
    • Re:Tis a sad day (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:27AM (#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.
    • Re:Tis a sad day (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:13AM (#31388456) Homepage

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

      It is indeed sad, but life is sad that way. If you don't think about the dollar worth, more human lives are lost. As she said in the article, the deceased himself, had he known the costs of his care could be used to vaccinate a tremendous amount of third-world children - he would have preferred the money be spent that way.

      It's important to realize, as you do, that human life is not equal to any monetary amount. But it's also important to realize that we have a limited amount of resources, and we need to think about how to utilize them, to have the best possible effect on people, including saving their lives. That includes calculating how much it costs to keep a person alive.

      • This is not an either/or choice, and to say it's due to lack of resources is disingenuous at best. There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone. More than enough manufacturing capacity to vaccinate everyone. And in short order there could be more than enough hospitals and doctors to treat everyone who is sick. The reasons we can't vaccinate/feed/cure the world are not because we can't due to lack of resources, but because WE CHOOSE NOT TO as a society. (either directly or indirectly by s
    • Re:Tis a sad day (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ma8thew ( 861741 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:56AM (#31388668)
      Unfortunately no matter what health care system is used there is a dollar value on life. Would you say that it is value for money to spend the entire revenue of Microsoft for one year to extend someone's life for six months? One month? One week? Because at some point pretty much everyone will draw the line, and then you are putting a value on human life.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:04AM (#31388166) Homepage

    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.

  • by carlhaagen ( 1021273 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:12AM (#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.
  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:17AM (#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.
    • 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.
  • Questionable Source (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:52AM (#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?

  • 600K is quite low (Score:4, Informative)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:03AM (#31388406) Journal
    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.
  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:08AM (#31388428) Homepage

    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.

  • by gordguide ( 307383 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:11AM (#31388448)

    I was struck by the information provided in TFA about the billed prices and the negotiated payments.

    (If you didn't bother reading it) several times she mentions that her insurer paid a negotiated rate for a procedure or drug, and that negotiated rate varied when she switched jobs and changed insurers. Discounts she mentions varied roughly from perhaps 20% to sometimes far more than 50%; individual insurers would negotiate what they were willing to pay for something and the hospital would agree to consider that amount to be paid in full, regardless of the hospital's standard billed amount for that "something".

    It led me to wonder whom, actually, pays the full amount? Then it struck me. The uninsured do.

  • by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:38AM (#31388592)

    Some of the comments refer to a life as "invaluable". Money has no meaning, etc.

    People in Africa get AIDS, and we all sit at home watch them die. We do nothing. The people who post these types of comments could send all their money to save as many people as possible, but they don't. The US government has the resources to save these people, but the US government withholds the money and watches them die.

    The reality is that resources are finite. A society could devote all its resources to health care and do everything possible for everyone, but where does this leave the rest of us?

    I could not buy anything for the next 20 years and save up an extra 500K USD ( this is above and beyond normal retirement saving ). This way, when I eventually get to my last year or two, I will have the money on hand to handle my own "spare no expense" end of life care. What impact does this have on the economy and my quality of life when I'm healthy? One needs to multiply this number by 300M people to get the scope of the entire US health care problem. These are real problems with a huge impact on both the living and the dying.

    Finally, Europe is no panacea. For instance, England deems many new cancer drugs as too expensive. Cancer survival rates suffer due to England's cost cutting.

    • by Ma8thew ( 861741 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @02:32PM (#31392192)
      The kind of cancer drugs that NICE (the body which decides which treatments are covered by the NHS in England and Wales) rejects are not exactly 'life saving'. The most recent examples tend to extend life by a few months, but are extremely expensive. NICE uses a formula to calculate whether a treatment is value for money, and they actually made an exemption for life prolonging cancer drugs to allow some of the more expensive ones to be used. Make no mistake, NICE does not reject cancer curing treatments.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:52AM (#31389162)

    640K should be enough for anyone.

  • by The_Steel_General ( 196801 ) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:04AM (#31389918)

    I'm going to repeat a point one other person made, just to make it again: In addition to the direct societal costs (which, I realize, can't even be easily quantified based on TFA: 600K? 400K? The amount charged, the amount paid, the amount paid less the patient's insurance premiums, divided by the number of people paying into policies for the two insurance companies?) and benefits (a few more years for 2 kids to have their dad around, an article investigating health care costs, a discussion on Slashdot on healthcare economics) there is also the advantage of having one more data point.

    Because this guy was willing to keep trying, going through significant suffering for the benefit of his wife, his children, and a few more months of life, the medical community knows that a given group of drugs can extend the life of a kidney cancer patient by up to 17 months. The next kidney cancer patient, and the next cancer patient, and the next doctor looking for a way to treat this person who just walked in,and the next researcher investigating how these drugs work, all have a bit more information than they did before. They may decide that it's a goal to shoot for, or they may decide that the regimen is not quite useful. Either way, it's more than they knew before.

    Of course, we can't determine the value of that, any better than we can determine whether the rest of the money spent was worth it. It's still a benefit we all get and should consider.


  • A third path (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bradbury ( 33372 ) <Robert.Bradbury@gmail . c om> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @01:54PM (#31391736) Homepage

    After 250+ comments I am surprised that there is no discussion of a 3rd path, e.g. cryonic suspension. Ralph Merkle often presents a 2x2 decision matrix with "cryonics works / doesn't work" on one axis and "choose / don't choose cryonics" on the other axis. In only one of those boxes does one come out surviving. Yes, in one box, one comes out as "stupid" (cryonics doesn't work + choose cryonics) -- but asserting the negative (cryonics doesn't work) is a very hard thing to prove (esp. when asserting the alternatives -- disassembly by cremation or microbes are fairly certain to "not work").

    Given that current prices (which I haven't checked lately) were of the order of $30-$50K for head/brain preservation and $130-$150K for whole body preservation it looks like the costs are 4+x cheaper for allowing a hospice path "death" followed by immediate cryonic suspension vs. the current medical paradigm of pulling out all the stops (no restrictions on costs) end-of-life care for people who are certain to die (and have presumably a low quality of life during that period).

    I would request that you not even think about responding to this post in a "cryonics won't work" vein unless you really know what you are speaking about (meaning you really understand nanotechnology and nanomedicine and have a good working knowledge of cell biology and current cryonic suspension (vitrification) processes -- the information is out there on the WWW if one bothers to educate oneself). By and large I consider the current medical community to be guilty of malpractice if they only present the two "standard" paths (hospice care vs. full medical intervention) and leave out cryonic suspension. It is interesting that in the current debate regarding controlling health care costs that cryonic suspension has not come up in the discussion as an alternative.

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