American Thinker | Rita L. Marker | Sept. 14, 2008
Oregon seems to have found a surefire way to lower health care costs: Tell the patient you’ll pay for drugs that will end her life, but not those that would extend her life. Here’s how it works:
In May 2008, 64-year-old retired school bus driver Barbara Wagner received bad news from her doctor. She found out that her cancer, which had been in remission for two years, had returned. Then, she got some good news. Her doctor gave her a prescription that would likely slow the cancer’s growth and extend her life. She was relieved by the news and also by the fact that she had health care coverage through the Oregon Health Plan. It didn’t take long for her hopes to be dashed.
Barbara Wagner was notified by letter that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover her prescription. But the letter didn’t leave it at that. It also notified her that, although it wouldn’t cover her prescription, it would cover assisted suicide.
After Wagner’s story appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard, the Oregon Health Plan acknowledged that it routinely sends similar letters to patients who have little chance of surviving more than five years, informing them that the health plan will pay for assisted suicide (euphemistically categorized as “comfort care”), but not for treatment that could help them live for months or years.
Certainly, spending $100 for deadly drugs is cost effective. And, ever since the Oregon Death with Dignity Act transformed the crime of assisted suicide into a “medical treatment” more than ten years ago, it has been perfectly legal. Oregon doctors prescribe lethal overdoses of drugs. Pharmacists dispense them, sometimes with instructions to “take all of this with a light snack and alcohol to cause death.” Patients die after taking them.
On to Seattle
Now, an Oregon-style law is under consideration in Washington State. After engineering passage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, assisted-suicide advocacy groups thought other states would rapidly adopt similar laws. But they were wrong. Because their attempts to pass Oregon-style laws in more than twenty states failed, the Portland-based Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC), along with Compassion & Choices (the former Hemlock Society), devised a plan in 2005 called “Oregon plus One” to break the logjam. It is based on the premise that, if just one more state follows Oregon’s lead, then other states will fall in line.
The plan was put into effect in early 2006. In its 2007 annual report, the DDNC noted that it had spent a year “researching and collecting data to determine that state which is most likely to adopt a Death with Dignity law…Through these efforts we have identified Washington as the state.” (Note that the assisted-suicide group chose Washington. Washingtonians were not in on the selection.)
. . . more