Excessive prolongation of the dying process

Other Names:
Inhumane use of medical life support systems
Inappropriate prolongation of life
Compulsory prolongation of life

A wide range of resuscitation techniques, blood transfusions, potent drugs, machines (heart, lung, kidney) and other supports are brought into operation to save the live of a patient, and even to revive a patient already dead by some criteria. In terminal and geriatric cases, these methods are so effective that life of a kind may be prolonged almost indefinitely, however limited the existence the patient then experiences. Medical techniques may also be used to maintain life in children born with severe physical deficiencies, including lack of a brain. Conditions such as encephalocele or anencephaly, in which the brain is severely damaged or almost completely lacking, are such that the likelihood that the child would be able to live independently in society without continuous care are negligible. Such children are completely unresponsive and unaware of their surroundings.


An extreme example is the case of a women in the USA who had placed on life support (although comatose) from 1983 to 1989 at the cost of millions of dollars. In 1990 the Supreme Court ruled that no one had any right to terminate the life support facilities. In 1993 concern was expressed in the USA at the cost of $240,000 per year required to support a child suffering from an encephalocele, with a cumulative cost to that point of $500,000, at a time when other children were denied medical treatment for lack of funding.


For millions of people whose span of life has been extended, its quality has been diminished. Some are in pain from cancer or have a wasting muscular disease; some are in acute discomfort from vomiting, diarrhoea, insomnia, bedsores, flatulence and general exhaustion. In hospitals and clinics, they are sustained by drips into a vein or tubes into the stomach. Legislation does not allow doctors to grant their pleas for merciful release and religions tend to argue strongly for the maintenance of life under any circumstances. The compassion shown to sick animals, by putting them out of their misery, is denied to fellow human beings.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 15: Life on Land
Date of last update
02.01.2018 – 17:54 CET