Assisted Suicide


The 64-year-old Oregon woman, whose lung cancer had been in remission, learned the disease had returned and would likely kill her. Her last hope was a $4,000-a-month drug that her doctor prescribed for her, but the insurance company refused to pay.

What the Oregon Health Plan did agree to cover, however, were drugs for a physician-assisted death. Those drugs would cost about $50.

"It was horrible," Wagner told "I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won\’t give you the medication to live."

Interesting, no?

Oh, and by the way, that insurance company? Owned by the State.



10 thoughts on “Assisted Suicide”

  1. So the State of Oregon wasn’t willing to fund a massively expensive treatment with next-to-no chance of success [*] and a certainty of causing much more suffering, but instead offered a choice of palliative care or euthanasia? Good work, the State of Oregon.

    [*] “The median survival among patients who took erlotinib was 6.7 months compared to 4.7 months for those on placebo. At one year, 31 percent of the patients taking erlotinib were still alive compared to 22 percent of those taking the placebo”. Those ain’t odds worth playing.

  2. No John B: think about this for a moment. Whatever else the state may have offered, the state also offered euthanasia.

    The state suggested, without being prompted and to someone in a considerable state of distress, euthanasia.

    I thought you were always keen on recognising who holds power in a relationship. Funny how you never apply that logic to the state.

  3. “Ms Wagner obviously thought differently.”

    And she’s welcome to mortgage her house to take those chances. I don’t think that it’s a good use of public money to sort it (and I’d not expect a private insurance plan to cover those odds either).

    “The state suggested, without being prompted and to someone in a considerable state of distress, euthanasia.”

    It’d be interesting to see what the letter says – the full ABC article (rather than the quoted sensational-ish lede) implies that it summarised the different palliative care options available in Oregon rather than the “sorry, no drugs, why not top yourself” point. Still, I take your point that it’s shitty and open to misinterpretation doing that via letter – more sensible would be to say “we don’t prescribe this drug, but we offer various palliative options – please talk to your doctor about them”.

  4. Palliative
    moderating pain or sorrow by making it easier to bear.
    remedy that alleviates pain without curing

    Yes, I suppose you could crowbar suicide into that description.


    “some have twisted the story of one woman on the health plan, making the appalling insinuation that services covered under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act are prioritized over chemotherapy because it costs less for patients to die than to live. Nothing could be further from the truth. …

    The Oregon Health Plan covers nearly all chemotherapy prescribed for cancer patients, including the multiple rounds of chemotherapy that the woman in this case received. The request for second-line treatment was denied because of the drug’s limited benefit and very high cost. …

    Weighing the cost of end-of-life treatment against the voter-approved Death with Dignity Act was never a part of those discussions. No treatment has ever been denied because death would be more “cost effective.” The very idea is both abhorrent and a blatant distortion of the facts. …”

  6. What has this got to do with whether the Oregon State Plan is state owned? Is Tim suggesting that a private company plan would not stop when a mega-expensive low probability of efficacy drug treatment is all that is left?

    I fail to see the logic.

    The plain fact is that for a cancer patient with a terminal diagnosis, a course of palliative treatment to control pain and other symptoms is the best course of action.

  7. I think the point, Brit in Aussie, is that this isn’t a private company having a woman die to maximise profit, which would be many people’s immediate assumption regarding insurance companies. The State has to considering clinical outcomes against cost too.

    However, I’m with John B here, the drug is a huge gamble and the fairest alternative might be to offer the drug for private purchase minus the costs of the palliative care she chose to forgo.

    It’s worth remembering that the money saved isn’t going in somebody’s pocket, it’s used to treat someone else with better chances.

  8. The lede is factually inaccurate and no doubt intentionally misleading. The Oregon Health Plan is NOT an “insurance company” under law or in practice. It isn’t governed by the same laws as insurance companies. Its schedule of benefits and procedures covered varies according to the funds available to the state, something insurance companies could never get away if they tried. ABC News should know better. I think they do.

  9. Actually, I would be very surprised if those responsible for the ABC News story would even understand what RW is (correctly) stating, let alone knew better prior.

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