Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Barbara Wagner offered assisted suicide instead of medical treatment

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Barbara Wagner was prescribed a drug to treat her lung cancer by her oncologist. But the State Health Plan informed her that they would not pay for the treatment.

In the letter informing Wagner that they would not pay for the necessary cancer treatment, they indicated that they would cover palliative, or comfort care, which included assisted suicide.

Link to the story

Barbara Wagner

The State of Oregon manages its health care dollars by determining which treatments that they are will pay for with State healthcare dollars.
“I think it’s messed up,” Wagner said
She was particularly upset because the letter of denial said that assisted suicide would be covered.
“To say to someone, we’ll pay for you to die, but not pay for you to live, it’s cruel,” she said. “I get angry. Who do they think they are?”
The language in the letter referring to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act comes out of the Health Service Commission’s statement of intent under examples of comfort and palliative care, said Dr. John Sattenspiel, senior medical director for LIPA.
“I understand the way it was interpreted,” he said. “I’m not sure how we can lift that. The reality is, at some level (doctor-assisted suicide) could be considered as a palliative or comfort care measure."
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is also concerned that the Oregon State Health Plan views assisted suicide and palliative care as similar health care services. Good palliative care allows a person to live until they die, whereas assisted suicide only causes death.

Once assisted suicide is viewed as a medical treatment, then it is always an option, even when good treatment or care is available.

Wagner is receiving treatment, but not due to the recognition by the State of Oregon that her life was worth living but rather because the pharmaceutical company has offered her the Gift of Treatment by providing the drug for Wagner at no cost.

This case should be an example of what happens when assisted suicide become legal.


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