Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Oregon Public "Death Panel"

UPDATE: Barbara Wagner wasn't an isolated case. The Oregon Health Plan also targeted others with its "we'll pay for you to commit suicide, but not for treatment to save your life" notice. One man, Randy Stroup, fought back, and OHP finally reversed the decision and paid for cancer treatment for him.

KATU's Susan Harding: [Barbara Wagner's] doctor offered hope in this bottle the new chemotherapy drug Tarceva.

Barbara Wagner: Like my doctor said maybe this can put the lid on it and stop it.

Harding: That hope shattered with this letter from the Oregon Health Plan telling her "we were unable to approve" the cancer treatment. It will pay for comfort care including "physician aid-in-dying" better known as assisted suicide.

Wagner: I told them. You know I said, "Who do you guys think you are? You know to say that you'll pay for my dying, but you won't pay to help me possibly live longer."

Harding: We took her concerns to Dr. Som Saha, chairman of the commission that sets policy for the Oregon Health Plan. She says to say to someone "We'll pay for you to die but not pay for you to live" is cruel.

Dr. Som Saha: I don't think anyone's saying that. I don't think anyone's saying that. That's, I think, maybe an unfortunate interpretation of the letter."

. . .

Harding: Is it cheaper to pay for somebody to die than to help them live?

Saha: That is not a question that we think about. We don't think about investing our health care dollars in that way.

Harding: Yet when thinking about patients like Barbara Wagner Dr. Saha admits they must consider the state's limited dollars.

Saha: If we invest thousands and thousands of dollars in one person's days to weeks, yet we are taking away those dollars from someone.

Dr. David Fryefield: So you look at average; you say it's just a few weeks and that's true. It's not true for everyone. Some people have incredible responses.

. . .

Wagner: If there is a chance, if there's any kind of a chance at all, can we try it instead of just saying no you're not worth it?

Hmm. No one is saying we will pay for you to die but not to live, but the Oregon Health Plan said they wouldn't pay for treatment drugs but would pay for assisted suicide drugs.

Hmm. We don't think about whether dying is cheaper than living, but we have to consider the state's limited dollars.

Inconvenient truths?

H/T The Conservative Comeback

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