Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terri Schaivo and Precedence

When Tyler Cowen visited The University of Western Ontario last year, one of the many topics for informal discussion was his prediction that continued growth in medical technology means we will be able to keep people alive for many more years in the not-very-distant future. As he points out today, these technological changes mean that we will increasingly be faced with competing issues, pitting the costs of keeping people alive against the ethics of killing people:

I don't see much guidance here from economics, political philosophy, or virtue ethics. My instincts are to "look toward the future," but I don't have a good argument that avoids all possible repugnant conclusions. ...
As Medicare grows as a percentage of the federal budget, this issue will become increasingly important. And as technology advances, no one will be left with a comfortable intellectual position.
Tyler is correct. The Terri Schaivo case is only the first of many such cases in which people will have to make very difficult decisions.

In Canada, given the shortages of medical services (at zero prices), we tend to leave the reconciliation of these conflicting issues to medical professionals, many of whom seem to relish the idea of playing god.

Update: For more on legal precedence involving this case, see Craig Newmark and Instapundit here and my position here.
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