Healthcare and the Medicinal Arms Race

Modern healthcare has grown to become synonymous with high cost and poor achievement. We are all familiar with the comparisons to other Western countries, mainly in Europe, who’s costs are far lower and outcomes far better than here in the United States. In the past decade fingers have been pointed at countless institutions, practices, and professions in order to find a single culprit for our lagging system. In truth, it is a multitude of issues which have resulted in our current situation. A topic into which I have considered investigating is that specifically of medical technology, as well as the pharmaceuticals which are used on a daily basis in any medical environment. The world of drug and medical technology research is a multi-billion dollar one, and one which has been permitted to grow nearly unchecked for the better part of the 20th century and beyond. It is also a delicate subject, and one which the general public and politicians alike find difficult to discuss. When discussions do take place, the sides are often extremely polarized. There is obviously more than one reason behind this; however a major one is how we as a population view our own healthcare. I believe that we are in a cycle where the reasoning states more is always better.

Many people point to pharmaceutical companies as culprits in skyrocketing costs, however we need their services and technologies for the drugs we use to survive. Medical technology has grown incredibly expensive because it is impossible to put a “price” on a human life. Even though a single drug may take hundreds of millions of dollars and years to develop, if it has the ability to save or even prolong people’s lives than of course it will have support. Though to most people these kinds of costs may seem ridiculous, when our own family members or friends are at risk the costs seem nominal and necessary. At some point in our future, we as a country must be prepared to either sacrifice this blank check medical technology developers currently carry in order to constantly produce the best and newest drugs and machines, or sacrifice another aspect of our lives and resources.

The vast majority of a single person’s medical costs will be accrued within the final decade of their life. As a person’s health fades, it grows more and more difficult, and expensive, to maintain their health. Our nation is incapable of funding our healthcare system as it stands for more than half a century further into the future. We therefore face many difficult decisions as to how this bridge can and will be crossed. Truly, if we are unable to make a decision on the matter soon the consequences will be disastrous. Especially with a topic as delicate as medicine, where lives are literally at stake, talking about things as seemingly frivolous as money and technology seems pointless or even cruel. Our ability to create new technologies is seemingly endless, however our resources are not. The decision between the two will not be an easy one, but it is a necessary one.

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