I think the stories of patients being refused life-extending chemotherapy by Oregon’s Medicaid–but offered assisted suicide instead–will materially impact the I-1000 legalization effort in Washington. First, this kind of heartlessness was predicted by opponents. Second, the old myth that Oregon has operated without abuses is now shattered. Third, unlike other Oregon abuses, the MSM is actually reporting the story–like an extended report on ABC News. From the story:
The health plan takes “no position” on the physician-assisted suicide law, according to spokesman Jim Sellers. The terminally ill who qualify can receive pain medication, comfort and hospice care, “no matter what the cost,” he said. But Sellers acknowledged the letter to Wagner was a public relations blunder and something the state is “working on.”
“Now we have to review to ensure sensitivity and clarity,” Sellers told ABCNews.com “Not only is the patient receiving had news, but insensitivity on top of that. This is something that requires the human touch.”
I’ve been in a debate (in Lisbon at a Fulbright bioethics conference) with a top bureaucrat from the OHS and I can tell you that the “no position” may be technically true, but the (figurative) scratches on my face from the fury directed at my opposition showed me clearly that this is neutrality in name only. Moreover, to look at this as merely a PR blunder is to wilfully miss the point that assisted suicide represents the most profound form of abandonment.
Good grief! Even Geoffrey Fieger, who I have debated several times on television over his representation of Jack Kevorkian gets that:
“Her case is hardly unique,” said Michigan lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, who defended Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s crusade to legalize physician-assisted deaths. “In the rest of the country insurance companies are making these decisions and are not paying for suicide,” Fieger told ABCNews.com. “Involuntary choices are foisted on people all the time by virtue of denials.”
Look for opponents to let as many people learn about this “blunder” as we can. Remember, if it can happen in a government health care plan, it can also happen with HMOs.
Assisted suicide is bad medicine and even worse public policy.