Death Drugs

One reason many were very uncomfortable with the idea of legalizing doctor assisted suicide was the fear that some doctors, hospitals, and other organizations would take the “easy way out.” That is it would be easier to have someone die than to save them. Defenders said this would never happen. However news in Oregon suggests it already is.

Quoting from ABC.

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 seems to me that the biggest danger in allowing doctor assisted suicide is and always will be the incentives insurers will put in. It simply is in their best interest to have very sick (and thereby expensive) patients die. Even if they aren’t consciously pushing death (as in the above) there are simply too many incentives for them to do the wrong thing.

9 thoughts on “Death Drugs

  1. Wow, human life is getting cheaper and cheaper in our culture. This is the danger of moral relativism that is becoming the secular religion. When will we recognize what we have wrought?

  2. I don’t think it has much to do with moral relativism. Rather it’s a slippery slope when medical expenses are largely decided by options and expense.

  3. Clark, we have an initiative on the ballot in Washington to establish assisted suicide — patterned after, of not identical to, Oregon’s law. While I can support the idea in concept, I am very much opposed to this initiative. There are just too few safeguards against abuse, negligence, and plain old incompetence.

  4. Clark, by moral relativism, I mean the philosophies of people like Peter Singer. These philosophies, which basically ignore the sanctity of human life and come up with sophist argument against it, are increasingly popular today. The bottom line is that the Gospel and Judeo-Christian tradition have constantly told us that human life is special (God created US in his own image) and therefore we should be extremely careful about taking human life. People like Singer try to equate animal life with human life and say that infants and old, sick people do not have the same intrinsic value as healthy adults. Such arguments are incredibly dangerous — it’s basically the same thing that Hitler said again and again.

    It is a very slippery slope from assisted suicide to deciding that some people don’t deserve to live because they are not as productive as other people. The place to stop on this slope is at the beginning by making assisted suicide illegal again.

  5. This unfortunate woman feels it is worth the cost for drugs that may preserve her life some months longer, but she doesn’t have the money, so her evaluation has all the value of me deciding it is worth a billion dollars to send me to the moon and back. It is easy to kick insurance companies–they often deserve it, but we use them because it beats the alternative of paying for medical care directly.

    I have been living a version of this situation. My 82-year-old father has been living with us for six years, and it gets harder on the family every year. He’s not a lovable old grandpa anymore; he’s an ornery old man who argues with my children and sometimes can’t remember any of our names. His physical activities are so limited, his mind so obscured, that there is no obvious point to each additional year, but he fears death. The reward for caring for him well will be more of the same, harder than before, but that’s where our duty lies.

    To further show how twisted motives can be: His current expenses are a fraction of his pension annuity (though that could change rapidly; a couple years of nursing home care would deplete the savings that keep piling up). So, for me, his heir, there is a financial incentive to prolong his life. I try not to think about it.

  6. The problem is that health care has to be rationed. There’s no ifs or buts about it. However instinctively we feel like it shouldn’t be.

    The question is whether spending billions of extra dollars to prolong life with low quality for a few extra months is worth it. I think that in the abstract we want to say yes. However given limited resources we have to instead ask if it is worth sacrificing children’s health to prolong someone’s life a short time.

    Ignoring that issue though I think the slippery slope isn’t about funding expensive treatments with diminishing returns. Rather it is about funding death to limit expenses. It’s one thing to let nature take it’s course. It’s an other thing to accelerate it for purely economic reasons.

  7. This is why I don’t want government controlled health care, in any degree. If we keep it solely on an “who can pay for it get’s it basis” it is fair, not because everyone gets evenly but because powers that be (luck, where you were born) or how smart you were with your money (savings versus spending and good versus bad investing) can decide who gets what, instead of the government placing a value on peoples lives and deciding who get’s what. Sure, a heart surgeon may not need a back surgery to live, but he does need it to continue being a surgeon, something society needs. As a society, are we ready and able to have the government say “a heart surgeon is worth more than a crack addict?” Sure, I am. But then when the government starts withholding services because you’re religious. Say you belong to a church that doesn’t allow gay marriage, and liberal judges decide that unconstitutional fairness exacts demand that you don’t receive health care until you change your religious viewpoints.

    Keep the federal governnment small and far away from my life choices. Keep it out of healthcare, keep it out of teaching children homosexuality is ok. Keep it out of defining immortality at all as ok.

  8. Umm. You’re saying luck is fair? By extensions wouldn’t you say that a child unfortunate enough to be put in an abusive family ought to stay there since it is luck? But if the government decides that a child’s welfare is valuable enough to take them out of that situation because of what it is doing to the kid, why shouldn’t they do the same with regards to health care?

    I’m afraid the argument you are making seems at best inconsistent or at worst the sort of thing you are applying very, very selectively for unknown reasons.

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