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    Tuesday Documentary: Season 1969

    1969x08 Matters Of Life And Death

    • 1969-03-03T23:00:00Z on BBC Two
    • 55m
    • United Kingdom
    • Documentary
    Christopher Brasher investigates some of the terrifying problems-moral, legal, economic, which have been brought about by new advances in medicine. We hear much about the ethical problem of heart transplants, about fertilising a human egg in a test-tube, but these are the problems of experimental medicine. There is only the remotest chance that they will affect us or the doctors who attend us. But there are many other problems, also brought about by new medical techniques, which do affect us today, and which involve our doctors in the most vital of all decisions-the quality of the life which thev can give us. It starts, for some of us, at birth. At least one abnormal baby is born in Britain every hour. Twenty or thirty years ago many of them would have died in infancy. Nowadays there are many ways of prolonging their lives, ways of alleviating their abnormality. But when a doctor starts on the long process of saving an abnormal child's life he cannot tell what the final outcome will be. He does not know whether the end result will be a happy child with minor deformities, or a permanent cripple unable to sustain life without constant and devoted attention. In such circumstances how hard should he strive to save its life? If a serious illness, kidney failure for instance, strikes us in full life there are now ways in which doctors can keep us going -sometimes fit for work. But the cost to society can be very great £2,000 or £3,000 a year to keep someone alive. And what is the quality of such life? In such cases doctors very often have to take a decision which is based on social rather than medical criteria. How many children has a man got? How much is he worth to the community? And finally, death-whether from old age or from some accident. In many instances this can now be postponed. The car-crash victim with a severely damaged brain can be kept alive for those vital few days after the crash. But what emerges-a human being or a vegetable? Tonight Ch