Suicide Offered, Life-extending Drug Denied

Oregon assisted suicide law

EUGENE, OR, June 3, 2008 - When Barbara Wagner of Springfield, Oregon learned that the Oregon Health Plan did not cover her life-prolonging cancer treatment drug her oncologist prescribed, the letter of denial advised her that the assisted suicide would be covered. According to the Register Guard, Eugene Wagner said "I think it's messed up", as she burst into tears.

"To say to someone, we'll pay for you to die, but not pay for you to live, it's cruel," she said. "I get angry. Who do they think they are?"

Dr. John Sattenspiel, senior medical director for the company that administers the health plan, indicated the assisted suicide option was included in the denial letter because it was Health Service Commission's intent to provide examples of comfort and palliative care. This is similar to the intent of California AB 2747 that recently passed the Assembly and is now being considered by the State Senate. It clearly shows the coercive effect of informing people who have been diagnosed or misdiagnosed as terminal about ways they can shorten their lives.

"I understand the way it was interpreted," Dr. John Sattenspiel said. "I'm not sure how we can lift that. The reality is, at some level (doctor-assisted suicide) could be considered as a palliative or comfort care measure," reported the Register Guard.

"We had no intent to upset her but we do need to point out the options available to her under the Oregon Health Plan."

ABC News coverage .

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