Just read a most interesting book, "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande. The author discusses the aim of medicine today - and makes a significant suggestion to improve it.
1. The aim now, so to speak, is to preserve life as long as possible.
2. The author makes an excellent case for preserving a reasonable quality of life as considered by the patient, close family, and the medical people involved.
The Author, a Medical Doctor himself, has noted a trend developing as the scientific community is experiencing an exponential growth of pharmaceutical products, nuclear medicine and other curative treatments that are increasingly able to extend life, but with essentially disastrous consequences. The advancing fight against cancer illustrates what he considers an undesirable trend.
It is now possible to extend a persons' life to a non-reversible point where the patient is no longer aware of his existence, surroundings, family or friends. The patient is technically alive in that there is a pulse, the heart is beating, and the blood is moving. The patient at this point is no longer aware of any pain, and there is no hope that a reversal of any of these characteristics is possible now or in the immediate future.
The patient is technically alive but any sort of positive life is gone. The Doctor might say that he brought the patient into the world, provided health care for years, and then extended the patients life well beyond any reasonable possibility of any activity except death. The Doctor, instead of claiming to be a hero, should be ashamed.
The Doctor should, under the direction of the patient, family, or medical community, extend life only as far as there is a hope of reversal to a reasonable and enjoyable lifestyle.
The ability to return to a minimum quality of life should be a major factor.