Insurance Companies Pushing Assisted Suicide to Save Money

by Anita Carey  •  •  May 31, 2017   

Doctor: "It's a lot cheaper to grab a couple drugs and kill you than it is to provide you life-sustaining therapy"

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RENO, Nevada ( - Insurance companies are choosing profit over protection of life, denying life-saving treatments while pushing clients to opt for assisted suicide instead.

A video released Wednesday by the Patients Rights Action Fund shows Dr. Brian Callister claiming insurance companies pressured him to recommend lethal medication to clients rather than life-saving treatment, in order to save the insurance companies money. He claims his recommended procedures for two different patients with non-fatal conditions were denied coverage, the companies opting to offer cheaper, assisted suicide drug coverage instead.

While speaking with the insurance agents, Callister said that, in two separate incidents, the agents asked if he had considered assisted suicide. Callister says he was "stunned."

"It's a lot cheaper to grab a couple drugs and kill you than it is to provide you life-sustaining therapy," he commented.

Previously, neither Callister nor his patients had discussed assisted suicide. In one case, there was a 70-percent chance for the patient to be cured by the procedure, while the other patient had a 50-percent chance. Both patients "would have been terminal" if they did not have the procedures and both lived in states where assisted suicide was legal.

It's not the only example of the practice. In 2012, Stephanie Packer was diagnosed with scleroderma, a fatal auto-immune disease that attacks a person's internal organs. Packer lives in California, where the Aid-In-Dying law was passed in a special legislative session, without a public vote and signed into law in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student.

The insurance company denied coverage for Packer's treatments that would prolong her life. Instead, it offered her lethal drugs with a modest co-pay of only $1.20. Packer, the mother of four young children and a practicing Catholic, refused to kill herself and was left to pay for the medical treatments herself. Eventually, the insurance company began paying for the medical treatments, but not before the family went heavily into debt.

Packer has since become a patient advocate and spokesperson for end-of-life issues, but is still struggling to pay off the debt, leaving her family coping with food shortages and worn-out shoes for her children.

The desire for suicide often departs once mental illness and pain are effectively treated. This is true even among the terminally ill.

Proponents of assisted suicide claim it is a personal choice meant to ease suffering. In a recent talk at the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Cdl. Gerhard Müller, the Vatican's doctrine chief, refuted these claims, calling them "internally incoherent and fatally flawed."

Cardinal Müller asserted that the claim that suicide does not affect anyone else is a "detachment from the reality of our shared life," noting that "even social science evidence has demonstrated that suicide can be 'contagious.'"

"If the rationale for legal euthanasia is rooted primarily in autonomy, there can be no internally coherent limits on its practice," he said.

Cardinal Mueller at Toronto Bioethics Meeting

Assisted-suicide proponents also claim laws contain safeguards, even "redundent safeguards" such as those claimed by so-called "death expert" Jan Bernheim. In reality, the legislated safeguards are false. A special report by Dr. Laura Dunn and published Wednesday in the Psychiatric Times found that in all of the six states that have decriminalized euthanasia:

none of the current state statutes specifically mandate a mental health evaluation by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist prior to the writing of a lethal prescription. Instead, the laws place the responsibility for determining the requesting patient's decision-making capacity and mental health status on the "attending physician."

In a review of post-death questionaires, Dr. Dunn found the "three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (96.2 percent), loss of autonomy (92.4 percent), and loss of dignity (75.4 percent)."

Dunn claims these are the mental health issues psychiatrists and psychologists are meant to treat. Müller concurs, saying "the desire for suicide often departs once mental illness and pain are effectively treated. This is true even among the terminally ill."

To refute the position that killing patients eases suffering, the Vatican cardinal mentioned Oregon, the first state to decriminalize euthanasia, as ranking among the lowest in pain management. "This is because once euthanasia is an option, it quickly becomes the path of least resistance for medical decisionmakers," he noted, "leading to an overall decrease in developing and pursuing creative pain management techniques, which in turn causes a greater measure of suffering overall."

He explained that in 1990, a committee of doctors predicted the decriminalization of euthanasia would lead to "grave and lethal new forms of fraud, abuse, coercion and discrimination against the disabled, poor, elderly and minorities; deadly forms of coercion by insurers and faithless family members; corrosion of the doctor-patient relationship; an eventual shift to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia; and widespread neglect of treatment for mental illness and pain management."

Most, if not all, of these claims can be verified in countries and states that have decriminalized assisted suicide.

"I chose to become a physician because I wanted to make a difference in peoples' lives," Callister says in the video. "We have great hospice care; and we are in a day and age where there is no reason someone should be in pain when they die," he said in a review of the proposed law in Nevada.

"I hear the horror stories of people suffering at the end, and frankly my response is, 'Sorry you didn't have a different doctor,'" he adds.


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