One way to see how health care research translates into reality is in the area of organ transplants. One of the interesting questions that often comes up when discussing health care reform gets to the heart of judgment. Do we judge another as to their worthiness of a treatment or intervention? Health care has historically worked to remain neutral as to the cause of the disease or illness and simply focused on treating the individual. If we step over the line of beginning to judge other’s worthiness for treatment, we are entering dangerous territory.
Where this played out quite publicly was with the organ transplant in the case of Mickey Mantle, the former baseball player. He had the liver transplant, even though he was a longterm alcoholic and really did not meet the criteria for transplant. He also had been on the waiting list only a few days, when the average wait was 142 days. There was a lot of negative media around that whole episode, but the key ethical breach was that he didn’t meet criteria for a transplant due to his health, which is supposed to be applied to everyone equally. As a result of this case (and several other high profile similar cases) the policies were changed about liver transplants for substance abusers. Here are some interesting case studies from students at Central University of New York. This is a little challenging to read, but scroll down to the paragraphs and read that portion.
That said – these individuals still received treatment for their disease. What is now evaluated more closely is the organ transplant, and that is tied to expected outcomes for a rare resource. It is not denial of treatment altogether. These types of ethical dilemmas will continue to escalate as science and technology advance.
Let me know what you think!