Human Exceptionalism

Cancer Patient Commits Suicide When Told NHS Will Not Cover Chemo

This is a crucial issue involving the assisted suicide debate. We have already seen in Oregon a woman denied coverage for chemotherapy to extend her life, but told that Medicaid will pay for her assisted suicide. Now, that scenario played out in the UK. The melting down NHS denied a chemotherapy treatment and the man, in despair, killed himself. From the story:

A cancer patient killed himself a day after being told he had been refused a wonder drug by his local primary care trust.Terminally-ill Albert Baxter, 75, committed suicide hours after learning he had been turned down for a drug which could have prolonged his life and shrunk his tumour.

In desperation, the cancer sufferer offered to pay for the drug, only to be told that he would have to foot the bill for his entire treatment which he could not afford. The pensioner, who was diagnosed with renal cancer in January 2007, had been told by his oncologist, Dr Fiona McKinna that the drug Sutent was his only hope…

But when he learned that his appeal had been rejected he returned to his home in Eastbourne, East Sussex. He was found dead the next day by his partner with a bin liner over his head in June last year. His partner of 30 years, Barrie Curryer, 70, a retired nurse, hit out at the postcode lottery for cancer treatment.He said: “What really upset him was that he worked all his life and paid into the health system and was refused treatment.”

What is amazing to me is that assisted suicide advocates would probably respond, “He should have had a doctor available to do it!” More to the point, this story again shows the money nexus between treatment denials and euthanasia, in which treatments needed by those with a low “quality” of life in order to stretch limited resources are denied–even if it would extend life–supposedly in order to allow greater access to the more deserving of care.

Look at the total picture that is emerging! Extending life is being redefined as medically inappropriate or not worth paying for, while at the same time, killing is being redefined into palliative care. This is abandonment: If we legalize assisted suicide, one consequence would be to make treatment denials more palatable–since we will always offer abandoned patients “death with dignity,” which is really just another way of saying, “one-way street.” Caveat emptor!

P.S. It is also worth noting that plastic bags used in conjunction with either drugs or helium are a favored method of “self deliverance” taught by fanatics such as Derek Humphry in books and on web sites. I wouldn’t be surprised if such suicide counseling was involved in this case.