Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ken Stevens MD: "legalizing assisted suicide can result in decreased patient choice"

Assisted Suicide

Updated Jan 19, 2012 01:01AM

Patty Henetz' "Do Utahns have the right to choose how they die?" (Tribune, Jan. 8) refers to the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon. Utahns should understand that legalizing assisted suicide can result in decreased patient choice.

I have been a cancer doctor in Oregon for more than 40 years. The combination of assisted-suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid).

The plan limits medical care and treatment for patients with a 5 percent or less likelihood of surviving five years. Patients in that category who have a good chance of living another three years and who want to live cannot receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, the plan will cover the patient's suicide.

Oregon law says only patients with no more than six months to live are eligible for voluntary suicide, but the plan nonetheless offers suicide to patients in this category.

The mere presence of legal assisted suicide steers patients toward suicide. One patient was adamant to use the law. I convinced her to be treated. Eleven years later she is thrilled to be alive.

Kenneth Stevens, M.D.

Sherwood, Ore.