OREGON: State Health Plan Will Pay For Assisted Suicide
As a result of a Monday decision by state officials, about 270,000 low-income people in Oregon will be able to obtain a state-funded assisted suicide. The state Health Services Commission in February decided to pursue the policy, a decision which was "upheld Monday by state Health Plan officials after they reviewed testimony from a public hearing last week that focused on the proposed rule to implement the coverage." The move is opposed by the Oregon Catholic Conference, which argues that "taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize a practice that some find immoral." However, Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) has "argued that voters twice have endorsed assisted suicide as a legitimate medical service for terminally ill people and that it should be covered by the state." State Medicaid Director Hersh Crawford emphasized that only a small number of people are expected to choose the option, and that the cost of the coverage, comprising doctor's visits, counseling and the lethal drugs, "[w]ithin the context of a program that spends billions of dollars ... is not significant." But Bob Castagna of the Catholic Conference said the expenditure is inappropriate because the state Legislature did not "specifically fund it." He said, "We intend to raise this issue in the next session of the Legislature. ... Physician-assisted suicide is a dangerous policy, particularly as part of a health plan that rations care to the poor. We're going to ask the Legislature to set aside any funding for assisted suicide" (Spokane Spokesman-Review, 12/1). Click here for past coverage of Oregon and its assisted-suicide law.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.