Celebrating suicide and ignoring consequences in California

Posted On: Thursday, June 15th, 2017

“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a party” seems to be the mantra for Compassion & Choices. The group marked the one year anniversary of legalized assisted suicide in California with a “celebratory” report, highlighting a number of small “victories” in their push for widespread suicide-on-demand in the Golden State.

  • Nearly 500 healthcare facilities and over 100 hospice locations have adopted policies supportive of patient choice and doctors who choose to participate in the law.
  • Approximately 80 percent of private insurance companies cover the cost of medication, including Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Kaiser and all Medi-Cal plans.
  • At least 504 terminally ill adults have received prescriptions for medical aid in dying based on inquiries to Compassion & Choices’ Doc2Doc consultation program.

Compassion & Choices wants us to believe that these numbers paint a picture of more choice in medical care for Californians. But these superficial statistics don’t tell the full story. In just one year, California’s assisted suicide law has begun to chip away at patient autonomy, and is putting the lives of others at risk.

The report highlights that the majority of private insurance companies are covering assisted suicide, but it fails to mention what this is doing to coverage options in the Golden State. Since assisted suicide became legal in California, a number of patients have been denied the treatment they want. Instead, they’re being offered pills to end their life.

Stephanie Packer, for example, was diagnosed with scleroderma at twenty-nine. Four years later and shortly after the passing of the End of Life Option Act, her caregiver suggested she switch chemotherapy treatment. Her insurance company refused to cover the expenses, but did inform her she could get her hands on some lethal pills for only $1.20.

More recently, Nevada physician Brian Callister attempted to transfer two patients to California and Oregon for difficult procedures. Dr. Callister told the Washington Times that, in both cases, representatives from the respective insurance companies said to him, “We’re not going to cover that procedure or the transfer, but would you consider assisted suicide?”

These are not the only alarming facts that are being overlooked. One in three terminally ill patients who are prescribed lethal drugs never take the medication, and there is no oversight for pill disposal. That means that in the past year, 168 of the 504 deadly prescriptions were unaccounted for in who-knows-where, California. They could be at the top of a garbage can in a residential neighborhood, or maybe they’re still in grandma’s medicine cabinet. This is not what responsible medicine looks like.

But that never has been the goal of assisted suicide proponents. In state after state, their aim has been to legalize this dangerous and risky practice for a select few, with no regard for the very real consequences for the rest of us, especially the poor and vulnerable.

A dangerous practice that puts others at risk and limits coverage options for the vulnerable is never worth celebrating.

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