Friday, February 19, 2010

MEDICINE: Let's Play G-d

I don't like to participate in surveys, because they're time consuming and usually on all kinds of political topics that I either don't know about or are annoying. On the other hand, I understand that the young people who do these surveys probably only get paid when someone answers the survey. So, since I feel bad for them...
Yesterday a student from Tel Aviv University called me about a university survey on the topic of medicine.
It started out fine. Which medicines do I believe should be in the medical basket funded from the government? Should medicine that helps cancer patients be in the basket? Should medicine that helps Alzheimers patients be in the bastket? Should medicines that are tremendously expensive be in the basket or should medicines that are very cheap and used by many people be in the basket?
After a while, the questions changed.
** If you could only fund medicine for one person, should it be a 75 year old man or a 15 year old boy? I was a little shaken by this question. I said, "You might be thinking that the 75 year old man has lived his life already, but if the 75 year old man is your grandfather, you love him and you want him to live, and therefore of course, the funding should go for him. If the 15 year old boy is your son, then the funding should go for him."
** If you could only fund one person, should it be a mother with a husband and five children, or a single mother with one child?
** If you only have money for 12 pills that make life more comfortable for critical patients, should you give 12 pills to one person and sustain them for a year, six pills to two people and sustain them for six months, or four pills to three people and sustain them all for four months?
** If you had to choose which medicine to fund, should it be medicine to save a life from a serious illness (like a cancer) or to ease the pain of someone suffering from a long-term illness?
The questions went on and on like this. There were at least 50 if not 100.
I soon realized that I was being asked to play G-d. "Who shall live and who shall die? Who shall come to a timely end and who to an untimely end?"
It was pretty frightening.
I was honest with the poll-taker. I didn't know the answers to these questions. I also wondered what the halacha (Jewish law) on these questions. I'm going to ask.
I know that if the lives of a mother-in-labor and her baby are in danger, you are commanded to save the mother. But I don't know more laws like that. I'll ask.
It made me wonder how our lawmakers decide which medicines to fund and which to deny. I'd like to fund them all - medicines to save lives, medicines to ease pains, medicines to prolong life, more or less all medicines. I also know that it's impossible to fund everything, but if it's your grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, sister, brother, child, friend, you want their medicine funded. And you want your loved one cured and healthy again.
May the Doctor of all Doctors help our people, cure our ill, and give wisdom to those who have to decide who can receive medicine and live.

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