Life But At What Cost Ethical Delimma


I posted this on another forum but think it was in the wron place.Anyway here it is again.
I am just throwing this out there- Something I have been struggling with. I have always been anti-abortion and still am, but I have been struggling with an ethical issue. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law are both older first time parents. They married late in life. She is 42 and he is 49. They had a baby who had a condition that is considered incompatible with life called thanatophoric dysplasia.You can look that up on the internet if you wish. Most babies die in utero or shortly after birth. The usual and only prescribed treatment is theraputic abortion. Like my sister-in-law, I would still have chosen to carry to term. Unlike my sister-in-law, I don’t think I would have gone to extreme measures to try and save his life. In most of these types of cases Doctors will not go to extrordinary lengths. In my sister-in-law’s case, it was right after the Terri Shivo case and baby Moon case. I think maybe her doctors were influenced in not having a media circus or lawsuit around this case and were more cooperative than docotrs I have heard about in so many other similar cases. Anyway, they met with a lot of resistance, but in the end, the Doctors complied with their wishes. In order for Samuel (means God Hears) to survive he has a feeding tube and a ventillator. He was in PICU for 6 months. He finally came home but has round the clock in home nursing care. My brother in law doesn’t work and stays home full time with the baby and in home nurses. My sister-in-law has to work because the insurance they have is through her work. Eventually the insurance is going to cap out. Some have referred to him as the million dollar baby. I use to think life at all cost, but now I think I 'm not sure. At whose cost? Communities (Medicaid) would go broke if they tried to keep everyone of these and similar cases alive at all costs. Whose paying for it? There are limits -For instance it was pointed out to me, you don’t give life saving heart surgery to a 95 year old. Why? You are only prolonging the inevitable, and at what cost. Anyway, I have been questioning at what point would you draw the line. I think If I was in a similar situation, I wouldn’t abort and I would certainly try to carry to term, but I think after the birth I would have let nature take it’s course, and let God either cure him without medical intervention, or take him home. Of course that is only hypothetical, because I was never in that situation, just ontemplating what ifs. Anyway Samuel is a year and a half old today and hanging in there despite all his problems. Oh by the way, Doctors said he would not react with his environment, probably not smile, and be severly mentally retarded. Well he can sure smile and he is a cutie. Here is his website at Caring Bridge if anyone is interested Samuel’s website
PS; I of course know the stance of the Catholic Church on abortion, but what about their position (or do they have one)on taking extreme measures to preserve life at all costs? Or refusal of extreme measures?


Deana -

Please see the email I sent you.

Prayers - Kage


There is a difference between life saving measures and prolonging death.


I looked at that sweet babies web page and I would say Money well spent! I could never put a price on anyones life. Life is priceless. If our government shells out billions to save this child it is billions they didn’t shell out on aborting other children. So far the medical measures taken are measures required of Catholic parents. That baby looks perfect to me as are all God’s creation. It seems that little child is teaching us a lesson. His life has more purpose than mine and I know he is more perfect than I because he is without sin. God please make me a perfect as that child!!!


We are not allowed to actually kill someone, but we are permitted to let nature take it’s course, while providing pain relief, comfort, and spiritual care for the person. For example, the late John Paul II refused extraordinary measures to prolong his life; he died at home in bed.

However, we are also allowed to choose whatever we think will help. Your Samuel has beaten the odds by learning to smile - perhaps he will beat other odds, as well - there are lots of miracle children out there these days - I once attended the concert of a man who had been daily expected to die almost from the moment that he was conceived - he was 27 years old, and apart from his appearance, he seemed completely normal - if I had been hearing a recording instead of watching him on stage, I’d have been thinking, “What’s the big deal? So, he plays a mean piano - him, and ten thousand others.” (He had no arms, and he was completely blind).

This man’s mother was considered crazy to not have had an abortion, and to not have simply let him die when he was born, and not to simply give up on him every time it seemed as though he wasn’t going to make it. Now, I guess he has a multi-million dollar recording contract with somebody, and is paying his mother back for every penny she spent on him in medical costs, and buying her a fine house, and all sorts of nice things - not that she ever did what she did for that sort of a reward, but I’m sure she’s not objecting, either. :slight_smile:



It’s been awhile since you posted this and you may never see this message. However, I visited Samuel’s website and I was impressed with this little boy.

I have two handicapped children. People have told me they should have been aborted and that they’ve caused so much “hardship.” The youngest has been referred to as a “paperweight.” They’ve made strides no one ever believed they could make, except for me and their dad. No, it hasn’t been a hardship; they’ve given so much love and joy. You simply can’t measure a person’s worth by how much money they generate in their working life or how much expensive medical care they consume. Hopefully, it will be balanced out by all the healthy people who consume very little medical care.

God doesn’t see us as producers or consumers. Samuel’s parents just saw their little boy whom they love and did everything they could to save him. Perhaps that’s why God gave him to them and not someone else. Think of how much their hearts have changed as a result of caring for him and how much good God has done in the world with that family’s suffering. They’re probably better christians today because of Samuel, and all he knows is love. His birth and life, no matter how short it may be, has probably done more good for their souls than a lifetime of well-written homilies.


You are right, it is an ethical dilemma. If healthcare were free it would be less of one, but these modern techniques are very expensive and add up, and they are paid for by everyone. Our healthcare system is in serious trouble as I type, with millions of Americans without health insurance.

So yes, it could be said that it is wrong for a society to use its limited resources in this way. On the other hand, the argument can be made that every life is precious and has value. For instance, caring for this young soul is a wonderful act of mercy and develops the holiness in those whose lives he touches. So, even though his life appears hopeless and he will never be a “contributing member of society”, in reality he may actually contribute a great deal.

So there is the dilemma in a nutshell.


No delimma at all. I have a now 6 yr old “million dollar baby” grandson. 5 months in NICU, 4 surgeries, and he survived.

Now, he is fine except for some digestive problems and a slight learning disability.

I would have sold my home, and everything I owned, if it had been necessary to save him.

There is no way, money should even enter into the picture when it comes to saving a child’s life.

The only way I could see not doing everything medically possible, would be if it were determined that the care would be futile.

In little Samual’s case, the care was definitely NOT futile.


It was determined by the doctors that the care would be futile. And heroic life saving measures were discouraged. (And I have heard from others who have children born like this that in other states heroic life saving measures wern’t even an option and the doctors flat out wouldn’t do it,) These babies are considered to have a condition that is incompatible with life. Initially my sil was told that no babies with this condition have ever survived. Actually there have been 2 that survived into early childhood and one into his teenage years. All on respirators. And from cases less severe. (Don’t know if they were all tube fed. ) They have 24 hour nursing care in their home. He is 2 years old now. Miracle baby. He is cute – here is his website.
I wrestle with this issue.Their insurance is going to run out. the costs are astronomical. I know this sounds really, really, bad but my mind still says if all a societies money would try to save all these cases they would go broke and there wouldn’t be money to heelp other needy. Anyway I use to believe life at all costs - i still do, I would never have an abortion. But someone mentioned to me- Why don’t they do heroic life saving measures in someone lets say who is 97 years old? Well we all know why. I don’t know what I would have done in my sil situation, but I think I would have had the baby and then would have let God decide and let nature take its course. However I don’t really know because that is all hypothetical. And Sam is beating the odds he truly is a miracle. He laughs and has personality. (Which the doctors said he wouldn’t). So I don’t know what I would do as I said since this is an issue close to home I think about it a lot and maybe that is what we are suppose to do.


Prayers still for all of you!


What? Someone actually called your child a paperweight?:eek:


You are only prolonging the inevitable, and at what cost.

Death is inevitable for all of us last I checked. I could be hit by a car tomorrow. Doesn’t mean I’m going to walk in front of a train today.

The problem here is one could use that logic on anyone. The blind, the severely learning disabled, the very young, the very old, the lame, … anyone could be (and have in other societies currently and past) been “incompatible with life”. Whose life are they incompatible with? Yours? Mine? the gov’t? Obvioiusly God disagrees or they wouldn’t be here.

In this specific case, we are talking about the life of someone else. A baby. If I choose not to eat or drink anymore under serious eminently terminal medical situation - that’s my choice. I would never under any circumstances make that choice for another, baby or elderly or in between.

Measures beyond that …
It would be and should be case by case with an understanding that all life is precious and has value, even a life of sufferring.


Didn’t Hitler say the same thing? Don’t waste resources on the old, the young, the sick…then it went to the ‘inferior’–other races. Then he went after the ones who didn’t agree with him. Where does it stop?

My cousin had a baby with spina bifida. They did intra-uterine surgery on her before she was even born to try to help her. She was the 17th person in the world to have that surgery. It was VERY expensive, and so have been all the follow-up surgeries and care she’s had since. But you know what? That little girl can walk, run, and jump around and play with her cousins. She still wears braces and has some issues, but she is so far beyond what anyone ever thought she would be able to do, it is a miracle. So should she have not had that surgery to begin with, and been left in a wheelchair with a colostomy and catheter her whole life? I don’t think so. Neither does anyone who sees her.


I don’t think anyone who sees this as a dilemma resents helping the handicapped, but the reality is that modern medical techniques are extremely expensive and are becoming cost prohibitive. Many people in the United States are uninsured and don’t even have primary care physicians because they don’t have insurance. They use emergency rooms as a last resort and often their conditions have deteriorated quite a bit before they are examined by a doctor.

So, the dilemma is, how do we distribute limited healthcare resources? In an ideal world, of course, we want to help everyone.

Should we have a medical system that ensures that everyone has a doctor and receives basic medical care or should we spend millions on saving the life of one child? This is a very real dilemma. Remember, these costs come out of the healthcare pie that we all pay into, one way or another. Once the insurance runs out and the parents have exhausted their personal finances, the government will begin to pick up the tab. And remember, insurance is something we all pay into and it’s becoming more and more expensive every year.

It sounds heartless to bring up money when you look into the faces of these precious children, but it’s reality. All the people who work in healthcare need to earn a living. The scientists who come up with new medicines and high tech gadgetry all need years of education and training.

It wasn’t such a dilemma in years gone by because we didn’t have these expensive lifesaving techniques. Now, we are faced with higher costs and more choices.


The problem here is one could use that logic on anyone. The blind, the severely learning disabled, the very young, the very old, the lame, … anyone could be (and have in other societies currently and past) been “incompatible with life”


My oldest is blind and mentally handicapped. He faces a challenging life and a life long handicap but he never had a life threatening conditions though. He is my oldest and is 20 now.

What this is talking about is going to “extreme, heroic all cost measures to save a life”. I like to give the example of an elderly person lets say in there 90’s as opposed to a baby. (talking about babies is much more sensitive)

A 97 year old has a heart condition and is going to die. She could live with a heart transplant. (or lets say some very new expensive artificial heart). Why wouldn’ t you spend the money to save her at all costs and give her the heart transplant?

Just because you have the technology, is the morally right thing to do is to save her life at all costs. Should you give the 95 year old the heart transplant to save her life. We are not talking about denying her food or drink, but giving expensive heroic life saving measures to prolong her life.

Is withholding life prolonging heroic treatments from terminally ill patients murder? If God wants to do a miracle he can, Is leaving it up to God and letting God decide when to take them home an acceptable alternative. Does man always have the obligation to step in and play God with his technology? Should limited resources go into prolonging life for everyone at all costs no matter age or diagnosis?

With enough money and modern technology they can do amazing things in medicine.

I like the example given in an above post of John Paul II.

I am not talking about denying food or water. I am not talking about actively speeding up someones death or euthanasia. I am not even talking about removing life support once it has been initiated.

I am talking about things like oragan tranplants, or sustaining life with artificial equipment for no hope cases.

I feel for doctors having to make decisions on organ transplants- Do they give the heart to the 95 year old or the 20 year old. Do they give the transplant to the terminally ill cancer patient or the car accident patient.

Do communities spend millions of dollars to keep one patient alive for a couple of months or a few years. Or do they use the money to care for many disabled that will live a long life with the proper care.

These are all very hard questions that most will never have to face.

But the biggest question from a Catholic viewpoint that I wanted to know is, would denying “heroic life saving measures” and I’m not talking about routine, regular care or not care known to save or reverse the condition, but I am referring to heroic extreme care that would only at best extend the life for a short time after birth be considered murder. And the answer I got in RCIA and from the Priest and from many posters here is that it would not be considered murder.

However again since each case is different and I am only speculating I am sure anyone going through such a decision would be consulting with their Priest and asking and praying to God for the correct answer in each specific situation.



I forgot how to do the quote thing. I apparently tried it in my last post and did something wrong.
To add to what lovesmary the previous poster said in her post about finances. My bil and sil are already facing financial issues. She has to work for the remainder of the insurance.The insurance they have is through her work. It will eventually cap out. My BIL is the stay at home parent. They are already having issues with medicaid like they had to sell a car I think because medicaid said they had too many assests or something. Anyway once the money is gone they are going to have to stay at a poverty level to qualify for medicaid. What about inheriting money? It would all go to medical costs. What if they had other kids (they don’t) but if they did there would be no money for college or anything. As I mentioned they are older parents - my brother in law just turned 50. What if the baby does live, who is going to care for him long term? My parents passed away at the young ages of 54 and 55.

Actually I would love to care for Sam, as I said my oldest is special needs too but does not have the medical issues, but I’m in my 40’s too. As I said just a lot to think about.


Regarding finances, we have to be careful not to have too many assets because it would cause the children to lose their Medicaid. Yes, our income is at the poverty level. Yes, I had to quit work to care for the children. Yes, it is difficult financially. However, most priests and religious take a vow of poverty when they devote their lives to God. I view caring for my boys as a God-given calling that, unfortunately, includes a vow of poverty. However, we do not do without. We budget carefully and live frugally. We own our home and always have one newer vehicle. If you cut out the non-essentials, you can live quite comfortably in the USA on even “poverty” level income.

Next, our children are on a waiting list to receive a waiver for multiple disabilities. Once they move up the list and are approved, this means the government “waives” the income requirement for the children to receive Medicaid, so they will receive it because of their disabilities and our assets will be irrelevant. This is a federal program. The government funds a certain number of waivers for each state. I’m sure you bil & sil have applied.

If you have an inheritance or have other assets and/or earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, you can see an estate planner and set up a “special needs trust fund” which is a living trust. The attorney and a family member are trustees and this trust fund is used for anything the disabled person needs, and it doesn’t count against them for Medicaid or Social Security eligibility. Anything they need. If you want to buy them a condominium to ensure they have a decent place to live after you die, the condo belongs to the trust and the trust pays the association fees. If you need towels or furniture or new shoes, the trust can pay for it. We’ve told our relatives that we want any monies they leave us to be left directly to the trust.

Another thing regarding funds is that, if your assets begin to build up, you can put money into a prepaid irrevocable burial trust for your children. That way, when they do pass away, their funeral is already paid for. So long as it’s irrevocable, it does not impact Medicaid eligibility.

I have another child who will be 25 next month. Because of the special needs trust, he will get his 1/3 of our estate (should we have one) upon our death and the other 2/3 will go to his brothers. He is extremely gifted and earned a full college schoarlarship. He can go out and earn money and make a living for himself. The youngest two cannot. Also, he has never done without anything in his life, including time and attention. He has had enough aunts, uncles, and grandparents spoiling him from the day he was born to see to that. As a matter of fact, for Christmas my oldest brother gave him a used car, Grandpa paid for the title and tags, and we paid the first six months’ insurance. With proper planning, the “normal” children don’t have to suffer. However, they do have an in-home classroom in love and mercy and patience. They learn empathy and compassion and selflessness. Not bad things.

Long term, the children will live in a condominium we will purchase for them and an agency will have to provide round the clock supervision for them. However, that won’t happen until we’re too old and decrepit to do it ourselves. And that’s no different than what would be required for mildly to moderately disabled persons or elderly people who have no family and can no longer care for themselves.

The picture is not as bleak as you paint it. Cheer up!


Yes. The children used to attend special education in the public schools. His teacher said he was nothing more than a paperweight. Needless to say, we now homeschool. He’s learned to walk, is toilet trained (even at night), and talks non-stop. It’s amazing how quickly he improved once we took him out of school. At school, they even refused to feed him, demanding we provide cans of Ensure for him. Now, he eats normal food, sits at the table, drinks from a cup, and feeds himself with a spoon. I’m not saying I don’t help some, i.e., I scoop food up onto the spoon for him, then he picks it up and puts it in his mouth. He drinks independently and then puts his dirty dishes in the sink. While at school (they started him in early intervention at 9 mos.), he was in diapers, non-verbal, and living on Ensure through a straw. The “experts” don’t know everything. He was just too much work for them.

He recently sounded out and read his first word all by himself: f-a-r-m. He sat there going “fuh, fuh, fuh” and “mmm, mmm, mmm” for a long time before he finally hollered out, “Farm!” Made me so proud. My little paperweight is learning to read!

He is 12 years old. His brother is 16.


I agree


In an ideal world, every christian would step up to the plate GLADLY to offer themselves and their wallets to assist their fellow man and we wouldn’t need gov’t assistance. These issues are spiritual and corporal works of mercy, mercies we are all called to give as best we can.

In an ideal world, we would be paying for lesbians to get IVF and abortion, and there’d be more money to make babies healthier. In an ideal world my dh would have affordable insulin as an option on our insurance instead of affordable birth control options.

The fact that we do not live in an ideal world is not a good enough reason to decide certain people shouldn’t be given just as much a chance to live as someone else. Neither is it a good enough reason to refuse to assist those when we can as we best can.

And it has always been a problem in history.
Because before there was insurance, you simply didn’t get care unless you could pay or the local catholic hospital/monastery took you in and treated you as best they could. For the vast majority of history, medical care simple did not exist except for the elite of a society.

This is still the case in many places in the world. It’s not a question of ethics. It’s a question of money. No money = no care. The end.

And no, I would not tell a 95 year old man that I think it’s a waste of money to treat him because he’s already old anyways. You are basicly saying people who are too sick or too old are disposable. For all I know, he may do more good in this world with another 3 years than many middle aged people have in their entire lives. Not to mention he might find christ during that time if he hasn’t already. Most people are turned down for procedures because they are too ill to survive the procedure, which is not always an age factor.

Again, I think if one is terminal or nearly so and decides to forgo treatment, that is certainly their choice. But it’s not a choice if people are saying they should just hurry up and die instead of being a financial (or emotional or physical) drain on family and society. That’s a horrid and disgusting way to look at family. Or strangers for that matter.

If you wouldn’t want to give that much to the care of a child such as your nephew, then don’t. (I certainly hope your db and sil don’t read this!)

As for me, frankly my taxes go to a lot of c* and I’m glad to see that at lest some of it is assiting to a family like them. And they are just the kind of people who should have 4 more kids, imho. People who are willing to suffer anything for the sake of their kid. No amount of college can ever make up for having parents like that. What an awesome example of love and hope and faith! :thumbsup:**

**Oh and who cares that your brother is the one staying home? Dad’s are supposed to take of their kids.:shrug: **

Who cares about their age? Who would take care of the kid if the couple died in their 30s? Are you just concerned it’ll be you? Then make it clear to them you aren’t comfortable with it. Frankly, if they are thinking you would, then an honest discussion needs to be had now because it sounds like you would not be in agreement with their wishes on his treatments and they should know that about a person they are considering for guardenship in their will.

If we want to discuss medical wastes, then by all means let’s do so. There’s plenty of unneccessary things out there.

But saving or prolonging life, be it young, old, or disabled is not one of them.

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