Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

‘Right to die’ can become a ‘duty to die’

with 6 comments

Wesley Smith who is a lawyer, associate director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute has published an article in the Telegraph of the experience of Oregon and its “assisted suicide” law.

“Imagine that you have lung (or prostate cancer, I know it is rare, but some of us might have it! – my addition) cancer. It has been in remission, but tests show the cancer has returned and is likely to be terminal. Still, you do have some hope to survive. Chemotherapy could extend your life, if not save it. You ask to begin treatment. But, you soon receive more devastating news. A letter from the government informs you that the cost of chemotherapy is deemed an unjustified expense for the limited extra time it would provide. However, the government is not without compassion and you are also informed that whenever you are ready, it will gladly pay for your assisted suicide.

That is exactly what happened last year to two cancer patients in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal!

Barbara Wagner had recurrent lung cancer and Randy Stroup had prostate cancer. They both were on Medicaid. The state informed them that it would not pay for the chemotherapy treatment, but it would pay for their assisted suicide. “It dropped my chin to the floor,” Stroup told the media. “[How could they] not pay for medication that would help my life, and yet offer to pay to end my life?”

Most of us with a terminal disease have faced the ‘right to die’ question and formed our opinions.  I, for one, would like to have the option available  although I would be unlikely to exercise it.

If legalising the ‘right to die’ leads to this abominable outcome, I will immediately become an opponent to such legislation.

The Oregon experiment shows how easily the “right to die” can become a “duty to die” for vulnerable and depressed people fearful of becoming a burden on the state or their relatives.

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Written by Greg Naylor

6 March 2009 at 12:10 am

6 Responses

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  1. You’re absolutely right, Greg, and all those in favour of euthanasia being legalised should read this post of yours. It could well lead to that situation where people who want to extend their time here are denied normal treatments once they’ve been classified as terminal and would effectively have no real choice but to end it all – on medicare!

    Ray Dixon (Bright)

    6 March 2009 at 12:42 am

    • I remember a film, from my youth, set in the future where those beyond a productive working life were restricted to pain killers. There was no treatment available for any of these people diagnosed with any disease. Thus they solved their ageing problem. At the time, I thought that could never happen because the first to be affected would be the legislators themselves. But, it appears I may have been wrong.

      If this thinking prevails, the ‘right to die’ will be re-interpreted as ‘euthenasia’ and that is a different concept all together

      Greg Naylor

      6 March 2009 at 12:51 am

  2. the concept is absolutly appaling – it seems as if they want to clean their hands of the terminally ill. Why take away some people’s only chance of survival becuase it costs too much? why just leave people out to dry – poeple who may feel, as stated above, that they are a burden on the state.
    Oregon doesnt have the attitude one would expect from a state – but hey – it is America….


    6 March 2009 at 6:01 pm

    • Dylan, it is bigger than America. Already, assisted suicide is available in parts of Europe as well as in 3 US states. With the worldwide baby-boomers reaching old age – together with a restructuring of the financial system, cases like this are likely to become more prevalent.

      Greg Naylor

      6 March 2009 at 6:53 pm

  3. i didn’t mean to generalize – sorry. it is sad that these cases could become more prevelent – like you said, the aging baby-boomers and financial crisis…how much is it to pay for chemotherapy for onesself? is it so expensive that the average Joe couldnt aford it? People could die in huge debt if the yare forced to either borrow money or sell things and take out loans for it – or mabye it doesnt work this way?
    its just seems like there is no alternative for these poor people…


    6 March 2009 at 7:51 pm

    • Chemotherapy is expensive but, in Australia, the cost is picked up on our remarkable Prescription Benefits Scheme (PBS) system. Under the US Health System, chemotherapy and radiation treatment are not covered and commonly cost $US40,000+ for a course of treatment. Their system sucks.

      With my prostate cancer, I have received a hormone implant (chemical castration) every three months over the last year. The retail cost of that syringe is $1,100. Under our system, I pay $5 per treatment.

      In the US, that treatment has lost it’s government funding and has become too expensive. As a result, US doctors are now opting for surgical castration. Treasure our PBS system = it is unique.

      Greg Naylor

      6 March 2009 at 8:07 pm

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