The Point: Well pay for you to die

I found this over at The Point blog. They’re quoting The Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard:

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, [Barbara] 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. . . .

Are these folks in Oregon crazy?

8 thoughts on “The Point: Well pay for you to die

  1. This is nation wide genocide by big business. They “crunch” the numbers and guess what we loose.
    Wasn’t it our Mother of Exiles (Lady Liberty) who said something like ..give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door…
    That was before big business became the ruling authority.

  2. This doesn’t surprise me at all. We were notified this week by my 7 year old sons insurance that they will no longer pay for physical therapy for him. This is the only and I stress only thing that we are able to do to help him with his battle for life. It helps treat his pain. I was told “After looking at his diagnosis and seeing that he is terminal and seeing in the notes that he is no longer progressing but declining in health we are unable to pay for care that we see as maintenance.” My comment back was “So you don’t want to pay for care that will help keep him alive.” The reply “yes”.

  3. Of course, from the article in the Record, we really don’t know the details. It sounds callous at first glance, but we have to wonder: How long is she expected to live? How well-proven is the effectiveness of this expensive drug? How long is the treatment regimen? What is your quality of life while you’re undergoing this chemo? What alternatives are there that might be cheaper? And did the oncologist recently go on a trip to Bermuda sponsored by Genentech, the manufacturer?

    To me, the Oregon rule of thumb — we won’t fund it unless there’s at least a 5% chance that you’ll be alive in 5 years — sounds generous to me, especially for a drug that costs $4000 per month and given that they will fund palliative care, that is, care intended to improve your quality of life (if not its length) and ease your suffering.

    Now maybe their calculations need updating, as the article suggests. And the letter that she got was ham-handed, no question.

    But do take into account that she already has had the full cancer treatment of radiation and chemo that has given her two years of remission, at taxpayer expense. Not bad! But now the cancer is back. Patients that get her proposed drug live only 7 months, compared with 5 if you don’t get it.

    We all want every chance to live as long as we can. But resources are finite, so we have to draw the line somewhere. I sure don’t know where to draw that line, but I’d hardly call the Oregon policy “crazy.”

    Two things for sure, though: if she’s happy and healthy a year from now — anything’s possible — we’ll hear a lot from Genentech and anti-suicide advocates. But if, as is sadly likely, she is no longer with us, we won’t hear a peep.

  4. Pity isn’t it how we can find or borrow infinite sums of money for some things and we have to draw the line somewhere for others.

  5. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that everyone commented on the denial of insurance, which is not at all an unusual circumstance. We read almost daily of some probably deserving victim of the HMOs and insurance company policies that deny people life-saving treatment. What I found shocking is that the insurance company would pay for someone to commit suicide in the face of the denial of treatment. That’s the part that seemed crazy to me.

    The denial of treatment is a sad, sad thing. I think we all ache over that. But, in this case, the company saying essentially, “We’ll not pay to have you live an extra two months, but we’ll gladly pay for you to end it all now,” just seems to me to be especially crass.

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