In the Interest of Fairness…

September 22, 2009

Since I recently reported a disturbing U.K. health practice and the potential implications for that practice in the U.S., I thought I’d also report a disturbing practice in one corner of the United States that may be exported to the U.K.: assisted suicide. 

I will pause to note that assisted suicide takes place in Oregon, but not the entire U.S.  That is a testament to federalism: bad laws are passed, but they are isolated to certain localities, and the rest of us can be impressed, horrified, or indifferent. 

At any rate, the Oregon practice has led to at least one horrifying side-effect:

It is something that came to blight 64-year-old [Oregon resident] Barbara Wagner’s last days. Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, the former bus driver vowed to fight the disease so she could spend as long as possible with her family.

Even after her doctor warned last year that she had less than six months left, she refused to give up, pinning all her hopes on a new life-prolonging treatment.

But her request, at the beginning of last year, for the £2,500-a-month drug was refused by Oregon’s state-run health plan as being too expensive. Instead, she was offered lethal medication to end her life.

‘It was horrible,’ Barbara told reporters. ‘I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills we will help you get them from a doctor and we will stand there and watch you die – but we won’t give you the medicine to live.

‘I told them: “Who do you think you are to say that you will pay for my dying, but you won’t pay for me to possibly live longer?”

‘I am opposed to the assisted suicide law. I haven’t considered it, even at my lowest ebb.’

Of course, the prospect of such a practice being imposed on the entire United States is frightening, just as it is frightening in the U.K.  It would be best to keep social healthcare and wicked policies that encourage suicide isolated to places the size of Oregon, where the people can cause a change in local policy in a relatively short time period if they discover that the state’s practices have rather unpleasant consequences.  I would also hope that cases like the above serve to deter the British from adopting similar assisted-suicide laws to go along with their public medicine program.

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