“Statistics are the triumph of the quantitative method, and the quantitative method is the victory of sterility and death.”—Hilaire Belloc
In recent articles and comments on TAC there has been a tension between values, best illustrated by the following. How many jobs lost should be the price for the life of an 89.98 year old man (e.g., myself)? If that number were 23.8 and 24 jobs were to be lost, should that man die? What is the equation you can give for lives lost as a function of economic distress? I’ll say there isn’t any such equation, neither a personal one for me or a universal one for faithful Catholics.
What then is the principle you’re going to use if you can’t quantitate these values, put them in a scale and balance them against each other? Could one argue that old people are a drain on economic resources? Maybe this covid-19 pandemic is God’s way of helping us to ease the economic strain imposed by Social Security and Medicare.
Or should one argue that every life has to be saved, no matter what economic cost? These are unusual times, but the Church has set down some principles on resuscitation that might be extended to the present situation. A relevant summary of this has been offered by William May (Zenit) , from which I will quote one pertinent sentence:
“Moreover the Church clearly teaches that it is morally wrong to impose on anyone the obligation to accept treatments that impose undue burdens on him, his family, and the wider community [emphasis added] or to accept treatments that do not offer reasonable benefits or are useless or futile.” loc. cit.
So then the question becomes what would “undue burdens” be? I can’t answer that but perhaps some of those commenting might have their own ideas.
Before signing off, I’d like to show some recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (as of 28 March, 12 n) on how the incidence of Covid-19 and the hospitalizations break down by age categories. The data speak for themselves, so I won’t comment further at this point.