On the very day that Steve Jobs died a new report suggests that the U.S. health care system is spending too much money on people near the end of their lives. The timing of the two events could not have been more ironic.
Had Jobs been under the care of the British National Health Service (NHS) or the Canadian Medicare system, he almost certainly would have died two years earlier. That would have been a major loss for the world, by anyone’s reckoning.
Here’s the back story. In 2004 Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He reportedly underwent successful surgery. Then, in 2009 he received a liver transplant. He died on Wednesday.
I haven’t seen Jobs’ medical records and I have made no real attempt to get the details about his medical condition. But for the point I want to make here, none of that really matters. Jobs’ case is interesting because of the issues it raises.
In most places in the world today a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer would be considered a death sentence. Aggressive treatment of the condition would be considered a poor use of medical resources — one involving considerable expense in return for only a few extra months of life. Perhaps Jobs’ cancer was of a rare variety that could be removed by surgery.