Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How Much Is it Worth To Extend Your Life? (and, for how long?)

Before the discovery of insulin in 1921 (by a Canadian! Who says the Canadians don't do anything useful!), by the time you were diagnosed with type I diabetes, you maybe had a couple of months to live.

In my case, since I was lame and didn't go to the hospital until I dropped into a coma and Jenn called an ambulance, I would have died that night.

In fact, today is my three-months-yay-I'm-still-alive-anniversary-date.

In fact, as the cardiologist from Durban pointed out to me in the ICU, if I would have been living in South Africa in the 1980s and come in in as bad a shape I was, I would have died anyway. They wouldn't have had the resources to save me.

If you're wondering how much saving a life costs, it's about 30K (in this instance, at least). My insurance covered all but 6-8K of that. To extend my life, it costs me about $1800-2500 a year in medical visits and supplies.

That's a doable amount of money. Not great, not spectacular, but - like the disease - manageable.

I'm basically living on borrowed time, extending a life that should have ended three months ago, and extending that life costs money. I've weighed the potential risks and benefits, and you know, I figure $2500 a year is a small price to pay to live. I spend more a year on food, and I need that to live, too.

But what happens when extending your life a year, a month, a week, costs 30K? When one month of treatment is 4K, and the average person on that treatment only gets three more months?

What's the worth of your life every month? I'm delaying the inevitable because it's possible that "the inevitable" is another 60-70 years away.

But what happens when "the inevitable" is a month, a week, a day, an hour?

What's the hourly worth of your life?

Because I want to say that every minute, every hour, is priceless. You can't measure that. You can't put a sticker tag on it. But somebody's putting a price on your life, and it's you who's stuck in the middle, wondering whether you should feed your children or give yourself another hour to help find them a better place to live when you're gone.

How do you measure a life?

13 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Jeremy said...

Each life will be measured differently, of course. The question is, how do you want yours to be measured? 

Posted by JeremyT

Kameron Hurley said...

And that's the scary thing to me: that it's not really me who decides my own worth. It's a pharmacutical company.

Jeremy said...

So long as you play by the rules, I guess that is true. But there are a lot of ways of bending them and taking short cuts. Say the pharmacons jack up the price 3000%. You could become a jewel thief to pay for your "habit," or better yet, steal straight from the source. Kameron Hurley... professional drug burglar. That has a nice ring to it.

Kameron Hurley said...

Well, you know, David M. is already convinced I'm a superspy, so I suppose adding, "Drug thief" to my long list of dubious skills couldn't hurt...

ScottM said...

It depends on the quality of life you're fighting for. Another few months in a coma, or lost to Alzheimers? That's worth less than an a Big Mac...

David Moles said...

I don't know what your life's worth, but your blog is supposedly worth upwards of 60,000 dollars.

(Only, not really.)

Hey, you need to rent Drugstore Cowboy!

Kameron Hurley said...

You know, David, the nice thing about knowing you is that you seem to have a movie recommendation for every occasion... :)

And hey! My blog price has gone up! I've been sitting at 59K for awhile.

Too made I can't trade some of that in to pay for medical bills... isn't there some kind of raffle point system, like when you turn in $80 worth of tickets for $20 worth of prizes?

Jeremy said...

Blog equity loans. I wonder if I could convince my soon-to-be-former employer that those are loans worth making.

Whereas David has a movie recommendation for everything, I apparently have an RPG recommendation for everything, because the whole conversation has me thinking Shadowrun.

Jennifer R said...

I can tell you that it costs $200,000 a month to keep my dad alive in a vegetative, drugged-to-the-gills state.


I'm with ScottM. Not worth the $$$$$$ at this point. 

Posted by Jennifer

ian said...

I know how I feel about it for me. If there is no quality of life then it's time to move on. And that's what my living will says. I think everyone should have the right to chose when it ends. I don't want to risk that my last gift to my wife will be a matched set of crippling debt and burden if that day comes.

David Moles said...

Ah, Shadowrun. "You got elves in my cyberpunk!" "You got cyberpunk on my elves!!"

::sigh:: There must be a brilliantly nonsensical yet ridiculously lucrative genre crossover idea out there that I haven't thought of. Though Penny Arcade will probably get to it before I do.

That Girl said...

525,600 minutes...

PerpetualBeginner said...

I find an equally interesting question is: how much is it worth to add quality of life?

A dear friend has a chronic, non-terminal illness. Even if she takes no medication or treatment, she is not going to die from her disease. On the other hand, for her to live any kind of life requires about $800/month in aides, $2-300/month in drugs, and roughly $600/month in equipment (Wheelchair, crutches, braces, etc., payments usually made in large lump sums, rather than monthly.)

So we're talking roughly $1700 a month, or better than $20,000 a year strictly in medical expenses for her to live her life. Not counting doctor visits and the expense of living in accessible housing. In her case it's the state of Massachusetts who decides what the quality of her life is worth - and unless she wins the lottery, they will make that decision anew every year for the rest of her life.