What should be medicines main priority?

9 September 2016

Should medicine give more priority to the quality or quantity of life? Historically speaking the quantity and not the quality of healthcare services has been the main priority of developing countries all around the globe since the impact of healthcare services is measured in terms of its effect on mortality. However some people may argue that healthcare services should be directed towards patient satisfaction as outcome measures but when it comes down to life threatening situations I can without doubt say that the quantity of a life is more important than its adversary.

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We can’t choose what life may have in store for us or the kind of diseases we may suffer from. We may be genetically disposed to a certain disease or it may be a result of environmental pollution. We can neither fully treat nor overcome it as we will be liable to side effects for the rest of our life but what medicine can and are doing is prolonging life. To them the main concern is not whether a patient will live be able to enjoy the full benefits of life or resume his activities according to his/her previous routine but whether such a person’s life can be saved at all.

Whether he/she can open their eyes after an operation however painful it may have been just to see the faces of their family and loved ones. After all is it not true that doctors enter this field to “save lives” as the saying goes and not for any personal comfort. Isn’t this exactly the main aim of every health care officer that prolonging and saving lives should be given more preference if the alternative is in the patients view a short but happy life or in other words one in which they have become resigned to their fate.

For example people suffering from cancer may be treated by palliative chemotherapy which means that though the tumor is not completely removed the life of the patient has been prolonged. And though there are many effects of chemotherapy, yet if the person may live to see another day then doesn’t this overcome the negative aspects. Doesn’t living to see another day justify what may seem to the patient as sacrificing his/her personal comforts.

And who doesn’t want to live a long life even if it means not enjoying pleasures of life, not contributing to our families and society and not “giving back” to others but only being able to receive care and assistance from them. On the other hand taking into consideration the quality of life many people are ready to die if there health fails rapidly and if they can no longer participate in the activities they once enjoyed. They may complain about pain, loss of vision, food no longer being appealing to them, loss of energy and depression.

They may not be able to adapt to the post surgery changes which leaves them in a state of denial of there present circumstances and condition. From this point of view the quality of life issue becomes more pronounced and for that reason patients show unwillingness to continue the fight for their life. They might also argue that it is more meaningful to step into ones shoes for even an hour rather than to philosophize about it.

However in the end the fact remains that saving the life of a person should be the main priority and concern in the field of medicine and the after effects of treatment should be a secondary concern. Even though there is a saying that there is a time to be born and time to die but that time may run short due to exposure to a fatal disease. In that case treatment and medicine should be provided in context of saving lives despite the consequences.

We may never live the same kind of life that we used to but we will live to see another day and is this not worth fighting! As James Clerk Maxwell once said and I quote: “It was a great step in science when men became convinced that, in order to understand the nature of things, they must begin by asking, not whether a thing is good or bad, noxious or beneficial, but of what kind it is? And how much is there of it? Quality and quantity were then recognized as the primary features to be observed in scientific inquiry.

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