Monday, January 24, 2011

Controling health care costs and legalizing assisted suicide in Vermont

Peter Shumlin
Peter Shumlin, the new Governor of Vermont is planning to aggressively control the cost of healthcare in Vermont. Is it a surprise that Shumlin is also planning to legalizing assisted suicide in Vermont?

I came across two letters to the Vermont Rutland Herald concerning Governor Shumlin's goal to control healthcare costs and his plans to legalize assisted suicide. I knew about his plan to legalize assisted suicide and I am not surprised by its possible connection to controlling healthcare costs in Vermont.

The first letter was written by Martha Hafner from Randolph Vermont titled - Choosing death is cheaper - states:
Speaking at the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce Jan. 10, Gov. Peter Shumlin made his administration’s health care reform policy crystal clear: Vermont will be the first in the nation to aggressively pursue the central problem of controlling costs. ...

But cost-control enthusiasm must not be allowed to harm vulnerable Vermonters. I am speaking of a proposed bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Say what you want about the lethal drug “choice,” it’s definitely cheap. A few dollars of pills can make unnecessary tens of thousands of dollars of expensive end-of-life care. And therein lies a great temptation and danger. ...

During the coming, decade-long effort to control health care costs, no-one should be pressured into taking cheap, lethal drugs. People will die unnecessarily and an essential trust in “the system” will be undermined. Anonymous health insurance bureaucrats must not be given the de facto power of life and death.
The second letter was written by Heather Sheppard from Cambridge Vermont titled - Let's not pioneer right to die - states:
I am troubled that our new governor wants Vermont to show the rest of the nation how to control health care costs (speech at Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, January 2011), but also wants Vermont’s Legislature to be the nation’s first to legalize giving lethal pills to patients. I cannot say with certainty if these two “Vermont-leads-the-way” health care initiatives are connected. But as a former HMO health insurance sales rep, I know that end-of-life care costs insurance companies plenty, and that their “cost control” would improve if society’s very sick people begin to die prematurely by overdose of barbiturates.

It is up to our governor and the legislators pushing this bill to convince me and many other concerned Vermonters that health care reform will forbid legalized assisted suicide. If they cannot, we will dig in our heels and bring the message of “no death panels in Vermont” to our Statehouse. At least two Oregon people were denied life-extending care they wanted but were still offered coverage for death pills they didn’t want (“ABC Nightly News” story, June 2008). That is an appalling breach of trust. The “death with dignity” folks in Oregon said it could never happen there, and they were wrong, and it is their money funding the lobbyists for the Vermont campaign.

The bottom line is that we can’t let vulnerable Vermonters become victims of the bottom line.
When healthcare costs and legalized assisted suicide are combined, the result is a lethal brew.

Link to an article about the budget concerns in Vermont.

Link to article about healthcare costs in Vermont.


Bill Pieper said...

You are making quite a reach here, conflating "information" in any newspaper's letters to the editor with something that paper published as news. Something that is real news, however, is that Arizona, too, has limited the health care procedures it will pay for, and that for want of state funded organ transplants, two patients there were left to die, and Arizona has no death with dignity law. My point is that these issues aren't really related, in Oregon, in Arizona, nor need they be in Vermont. Medical rationing in the US occurs in every state every day, but it is insurance companies who do it. So if you want to fight that issue, do it. But don't drag into it those of us who wish to seek death with dignity by our own choice if we end up needing that option. You too may need it some day. No one ever knows for sure until that day comes.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Bill:

I have no idea why you would suggest that I am refering to these letters to the paper as news.

They are good letters and I agree with their contents.

You can say there is no connection, except for the fact that legalizing assisted suicide will eventually save the Vermont health care system a lot of money.