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Oregon’s New Health Policy: Assisted Suicide

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The future of nationalized health medicine is assisted suicide rather than medical treatment. I didn’t realize that Oregon had a “Right to Die” assisted suicide law. But doesn’t that mean that you have to want to die first, not be told to die?

Ask Barbara Wagner, a 64 year old women living in Springfield, Oregon. When her health insurance contacted her regarding her lung cancer treatment.

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that would cost $4,000 a month, the newspaper reported, “Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover the treatment, but that it would cover palliative, or comfort, care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.”

A country with socialized health care system will have to depend on pseudo-triage assessment of who should live and who should die. The government won’t be able to take care of everybody. Those who want national health medicine should be careful what they ask for. If they get sick, they may have to die for their ultimate faith in the government taking care of them.

But what is shocking is to read the nonchalant attitude of the newspaper with the ethical challenges of the insurance company.

Predictably, critics of Oregon’s unique-in-the-nation law are aflame over Wagner’s story, some claiming it covers killing but not cancer. That’s not exactly true, of course. The program that rations subsidized health care for low-income Oregonians has paid thousands of dollars over the years for Wagner’s cancer care, and it will continue to do so.

It stopped short, however, of paying for a cancer drug that failed to meet the state’s long-standing “five-year, 5 percent rule.” It won’t approve payment for treatment that doesn’t provide at least a 5 percent chance of survival after five years.

In Wagner’s case, administrators of the Oregon Health Plan had to make a difficult call. But that’s what they do every day in performing the tough, thankless job of rationing government-paid health care to the needy.

What’s unacceptable, however, is that Wagner’s rejection letter included the offer of payment for doctor-assisted death. Such notification creates at least the appearance of an ethical conflict: state encouragement of dying as a cost-saving measure.

As the only state that both allows assisted suicide and tries to ration health care, Oregon has created a fine ethical line for state officials to navigate. In this case, they stepped over it. For the sake of ethical clarity in Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, the state health plan should stop offering to pay for those who use it.

They don’t mind that the doctor offered assisted suicide. They are offended that the insurance company should pay for it.

What’s next? Oregon liberal’s solution for the energy crisis: Soylent Biofuel.


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