Possibly one of the best and most compelling arguments I have heard…
The lack of choice with assisted suicide
I have been a cancer doctor for over 40 years in Oregon. The combination of assisted-suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid).
For this reason, I disagree with the letter by Edie Tschorn expressing support for legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Vermont. (Dec. 27, 2011).
The Oregon Health Plan limits medical care and treatment for patients with a likelihood of a 5 percent or less 5-year survival. My patients in that category, who say, have a good chance of living another three years and who want to live, cannot receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to obtain that goal. The plan guidelines state that the plan will not cover “chemotherapy or surgical interventions with the primary intent to prolong life or alter disease progression.”
The plan will cover the cost of the patient’s suicide.
Under our law, a patient is not supposed to be eligible for suicide until they are deemed to have six months or less to live. In two well-publicized cases in this area, neither of the people had such diagnoses, nor had they asked for suicide. The plan, nonetheless, offered them suicide.
In Oregon, the mere presence of legal assisted-suicide steers patients to suicide even when there is not an issue of coverage. One of my patients was adamant she would use the law. I convinced her to be treated. Eleven years later she is thrilled to be alive. Please, don’t let assisted suicide come to Vermont.
KENNETH STEVENS, MD