Clinical Perspective

Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 830-835

First online:

Ethical, political, and social aspects of high-technology medicine: Eos and Care

  • Nereo ZamperettiAffiliated withDepartment of Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, San Bortolo Hospital Email author 
  • , Rinaldo BellomoAffiliated withDepartment of Intensive Care, Austin and Repatriation Medical Center
  • , Maurizio DanAffiliated withDepartment of Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, San Bortolo Hospital
  • , Claudio RoncoAffiliated withDepartment of Nephrology, San Bortolo Hospital

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Abstract

Objective

We discuss biosocial aspects of high-technology medicine (HTM) to provide a global view of the current model of medicine in the developed world and its consequences.

Methods

We analyze changes in the concept of death and in the use and cost of HTM. The consequences of HTM on the delivery of basic medical care within and among countries are discussed. Concepts derived from Greek mythology are used to illustrate the problems associated with HTM.

Results

HTM can be extremely effective in individual cases, but it poses important bioethical and biosocial problems. A major problem is related to the possibility of manipulating the process of dying and the consequent alteration in the social concept of death, which, if not carefully regulated, risks transforming medicine into an expensive way of pursuing pointless dreams of immortality (myth of Eos). Another problem is related to the extraordinary amount of resources necessary for HTM. This model of medicine (which is practiced daily) has limited sustainability, can work only in highly developed countries, may contribute to unequal access to health care, and has negligible positive impact on global health and survival.

Conclusions

HTM poses very important biosocial questions that need to be addressed in a wider and transparent debate, in the best interest of society and HTM as well.