Who Does Assisted Suicide Threaten the Most? The Poor


We recently reported that California Governor Jerry Brown signed an assisted suicide law, making California the fifth American state to condone the practice.

In theory, the law provides safeguards for patients. It requires that two California doctors must certify that a person has no more than six months to live. Patients must choose the drugs and affirm their intention forty-eight hours in advance and take the drugs on their own without assistance.

A Democratic assemblywoman, Lorena Gonzalez, opposed the new law, and is concerned about the many ways patients may be influenced.

In Oregon, which has allowed assisted suicide since 1997, Dr. William Toffler noted that he was receiving indications that many important services under the Oregon Health Plan would not be covered. He added, “Yet physician-assisted suicide is covered by the state and our collective tax dollar. Supporters claim physician-assisted suicide gives patients choice, but what sort of a choice is it when life is expensive but death is free?”

Dr. Toffler described a case from 2008 when a lung cancer patient was told by her insurance carrier that it wouldn’t cover a drug her doctor had prescribed costing $4,000 per month, but it would cover the drugs required for a physician-assisted suicide.

This patient is quoted as saying, “I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won’t give you the medication to live.”

It is clear that legalizing physician-assisted suicide has created financial incentives to choose death.

Richard Doerflinger, who is associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted, “Last year, over half the patients who committed assisted suicide in Oregon relied on the government for their health coverage or had no coverage at all. Over three-quarters of those dying under Washington’s assisted suicide law were partly or completely dependent on Medicare or Medicaid.”

The combination of a burgeoning elderly population and soaring health care costs will cause many to see assisted suicide as a cost-effective option.

At the National Center for Life and Liberty, we are dedicated to preserving and cherishing life, from the unborn to the ill and elderly. If you or a family member has a struggle in this area, please contact us.