Once viewed as a fiction of the most bizarre sci-fi movie, the prolongation of life by the use of new and emerging medical technology is now a reality in 21st-century modern medical science. Today, more than ever before, the timing of a person’s death can be manipulated and controlled by the use of mechanical life-sustaining devices to an extent not considered fifty years ago (Shircore & Barett, 2009). However, the initiation of life-sustaining medical technology has raised a multiplicity of ethical, moral and legal questions and dilemmas, especially in relation to end-of-life decision making. But while this may be so, it may be important to consider the fact that medical technology’s mounting capability to extend or sustain life often involves a choice between death and life in compromised health, and that the best interest of the patient needs to be taken into account to achieve the best range of outcomes (Winter et al., 2009). It is against this backdrop that this essay aims to demonstrate ground why new medical technology should be used to prolong life.
The scope of this essay will revolve around the pros of using new technology to prolong life. Researchers have indeed documented the many advantages that modern medical technology offers to the terminally ill, with Malcolm (1986) noting how dialysis units have found increasing usage among kidney patients due to their ability to ameliorate quality of life, and Cook et al (1999) noting how intensive care unit (ICU) technologies have continued to be used to offer patients right to self-determination and right to dignity. More importantly, Cook et al (2009) argues that modern life support technology should be withheld to assist in determining prognosis, thereby allaying any doubts or uncertainties about the patient’s illness, not mentioning that such an approach can assist medical professionals in providing the best treatment methodologies.
For terminally ill patients, Shircore & Barett (2009) are of the opinion that not only do new medical technologies assist to improve the quality of life at its end, but they help to preserve the sanctity of life. These two qualities are critically important if the terminally ill are to be given a dignified send-off. Indeed, these views are shared by Adam (2009), who suggests that “…human life is fragile and while mortality cannot be prevented it can be delayed so that we may strive for longer, healthier lives” (para. 1).
Although there exist compelling social and moral arguments about using new technology to prolong life, some technologies, including “therapeutic hypothermia” technology for cardiac arrest patients, Stereotaxis Magnetic Navigation System for cardiac arrhythmias patients, and radioembolization for liver cancer patients, have already proved their intrinsic worth by virtue of not only improving the quality of life of patients, but also by ensuring they live longer, healthier lives (Adam, 2009). In consequence, it is up to all to all stakeholders, including the government and health fraternity, to ensure that such technologies are made readily available to those who are most in need.
Adam, O. (2009). New medical innovations strive to prolong life. Web.
Cook, D.J., Giacomini, M., Johnson, N., & Willms, D. (1999). Life support in the Intensive Care Unit: A Qualitative Investigation of Technological Purposes. Canadian Medical Journal, 161(9). Web.
Malcolm, A.H. (1986). Extending life or prolonging death? Web.
Shircore, M., & Barett, M. (2009). Uncomfortable bedfellows: Queensland criminal law and patient’s rights to refuse life-sustaining treatment. James Cook University Law Review, 26(16), 90-121.
Winter, L., Dennis, M.P., & Parker, B. (2009). Preferences of life-prolonging medical treatments and deference to the will of God. Journal of Religion and Health, 148(4), 418-430.