If a person stays in coma with expensive instrumental support for many days, how long should the relatives continue the support?

by Chaitanya CharanSeptember 14, 2012

A person goes into coma. Their body continues to carry out all basic functions but they are completely unaware of “external” world. They are kept alive on ventilator in ICU for some days. These days ICU costs a lot, in the order of 25,000 per day. So if the person does not come out of coma, the family finds it very difficult to maintain the patient in the state. At the same time, since bodily functions are continuing, we can understand that the soul is present. in such a situation, what should the family do? Removing the person from critical life support is tantamount to killing him and paying the heavy fees is not feasible. In such situation what should the family members do?

I hope the question is not offensive. I will be very grateful if you can clarify the same.

Relevant quotes:

Harikesa: We were wondering, Srila Prabhupada, about all these people they are keeping alive artificially in the boxes. They have so many people in boxes in the hospitals they are keeping alive. So the big battle is raging whether or not they should pull out the plug.

Prabhupada: Keeping life?

Harikesa: They have these artificial machines that pump blood and breathe and digest food, and they pump everything into the body and they keep it alive. So all the scientists are wondering if they should pull out the plugs because it wastes so much money.

Saurabha: There is some disease now that people enter in some coma, and with the machine they keep them alive for thirty years. There’s some lady. She is already thirty and the machine since thirty years…

Prabhupada: So it’s still limited, thirty years, not permanently.

Saurabha: No, no.

Prabhupada: Then where is the solution? What is the solution? If after thirty years it is going to be collapsed, then what is the use?

Devotee (1): But it’s the moral problem that they’re having, isn’t it? Not the sickness, but the moral problem of either killing off one person or letting him continue to survive.

Prabhupada: Well, they have no moral. They are killing so many persons. That is killing. That is not… They are expert in killing.

Saurabha: But they’re afraid to take decision. They’re very much confused.

Harikesa: They’re afraid to take a decision whether to kill them or not by pulling out the plug.

Prabhupada: You take decision or not, he will be killed. That you cannot say. You are becoming very much moralist, whether to kill, but it will be killed. You cannot save him. That is not possible.

Harikesa: So, they should just keep the machines going?

Prabhupada: No, they should stop this nonsense and save money. That’s all. Therefore they are called rascals. It will not be persisting. It is temporary. So why should you spend money? That is intelligence.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Morning Walk — November 11, 1975, Bombay


Svarupa Damodara: Srila Prabhupada? In this biomedical science, this ethics, there’s a problem arising. The person, the family of the person who is suffering, says that “Please don’t apply these machines. Let the person die.” But the medical doctors say “No, we’ll keep him alive as long as we can go on.” So this is a problem. So who’s right? Is the family right, or…

Prabhupada: Family right. Family is intelligent, that “You are rascal, why you are trying? Let him die peacefully.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Morning Walk — July 11, 1976, New York


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Chaitanya Charan