Excessive prolongation of the dying process

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.
In most societies, long before the advent of modern medicine, human beings have made themselves ready for death once they felt its approach. In the Middle Ages, for example, dying people awaited death lying down, surrounded by friends and family. They recollected all they had lived through and done, pardoning all who stood near their deathbed, calling on God to bless them, and finally praying and not delaying further the moment of death. For those near death, the "dying response" may be much less inappropriate, much less accidental and much less unreasonable than the valiant efforts to defeat disease and save lives sometimes allow. By intervening indiscriminately in the dying process, modern society may be dislocating the conscious and well the purely organic responses allowing death to come when it is inevitable, thus denying those who are dying the benefits of the traditional approach to death.
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.
1. 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.

2. When such people are not hospitalized, caring for them becomes the responsibility of a relative, who feeds, washes and nurses them, often for months on end without respite. Watching a loved one relentlessly deteriorating, from a much loved relative to a semi-corpse, and dealing with the irrational and irritating behaviour engendered by such suffering and by the extensive use of pain-killing drugs, erodes affection. When they eventually die, the relief is so great that they are not mourned.

3. Prolongation of a vegetative existence is morally indefensible. The growing numbers of distressingly handicapped infants and adults, and hopelessly decrepit aged, will eventually exhaust the manpower and medical resources available.

(F) Fuzzy exceptional problems