By Marilyn Golden
NY Times - April 10, 2012
Mixing assisted suicide and profit-driven managed health care is a dangerous mistake. A lethal prescription costs about $300, often much cheaper than treatment regimens. Denying or delaying treatment to save money already poses a significant danger, far greater if assisted suicide is legal. For example, two Oregonians, Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, were informed that the Oregon Health Plan won't pay for their chemotherapy, but will pay for assisted suicide.
Doctor-prescribed suicide also raises concerns about elder abuse. In Oregon, once the lethal drug is in the home, no one can know how or by whom it was administered. No witness is required. Today’s harsh reality regarding abuse of vulnerable family members is unaddressed by the law.
"Disabled patients, the elderly and those with depression or mental illness are especially vulnerable."Doctor-prescribed suicide especially affects people with depression or mental illness. Michael Freeland had a 40-year history of acute depression but received lethal drugs in Oregon.
Oregon’s “safeguards” offer no protection. If a doctor refuses, patients find another doctor. “Death within six months” is often misdiagnosed, endangering persons not terminally ill, including disabled people with many meaningful years of life ahead. The law offers no protection when family pressures, financial or emotional, distort patient choice.
The Oregon model lacks meaningful oversight, has no investigation of abuse, and its data is flawed. Americans are wise to reject assisted-suicide laws -- they're bad medicine.
Marilyn Golden is a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.