Is Soylent Green Coming?

A New York Times article on 5/5/08 contained a startling statistic - 9 of 10 who live into their 80s will wind up unable to take care of themselves either because of frailty or dementia. In response to this problem Dartmouth Medical School research came up with the concept of “ slow medicine", a medical treatment approach that encourages less aggressive - and less costly - care at the end of life. ( I‘m not quite sure who determines the “end of life”. Is it the Doctor, the patient , the patient’s family or a committee of the foregoing? Let us not forget the saying that a camel was designed by a committee.) The concept of slow medicine is not all bad . If applied when a treatment or treatments present high risk and limited rewards it can reduce needless suffering. It surely reduces health care costs and it make a small contribution to the problem of overpopulation. Which brings me to the movie Soylent Green.

The movie depicted a country suffering from overpopulation, global warming, widespread unemployment, poverty, a shortage of fruit, vegetables and meat. Pick up any paper today and you will find reports about the danger of global warming, rising unemployment, rising food prices, soaring health care costs, and the graying of the population. Not quite the country portrayed in Soylent Green but one aching for a cure of its ills.

In the movie the elderly “Book” chose to end his life through government-assisted euthanasia. Is this what “ slow medicine “ is preparing us for?

No comments: