NPR logo In A Husband's Death, The 'Impossible Calculus' Of Health Care Costs


In A Husband's Death, The 'Impossible Calculus' Of Health Care Costs

It was some time after midnight on Dec. 8, 2007, when Dr. Eric Goren told me my husband might not live till morning.

The kidney cancer that had metastasized almost six years earlier was growing in his lungs. He was in intensive care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and had begun to spit blood.

Terence Bryan Foley, 67 years old, my husband of 20 years, father of our two teenagers, a Chinese historian who earned his Ph.D. in his 60s, a man who played more than 15 musical instruments and spoke six languages, a San Francisco cable car conductor and sports photographer, an expert on dairy cattle and swine nutrition, film noir and Dixieland jazz, was confused. He knew his name, but not the year. He wanted a Coke. ...

Should Terence begin to hemorrhage, the doctor asked, what should he do? ...

Keep him alive if you can, I said. ...

Terence died six days later, on Friday, Dec. 14, 2007.

What I couldn't know then was that the thinking behind my request — along with hundreds of decisions we made over seven years — was a window on the impossible calculus at the core of the U.S. health-care debate.

Bloomberg published this piece last year, but I just saw it this week, when it won a Loeb award.

Read the whole story.