Health Plans Forced to Provide Assisted Suicide Counseling

Another little gem found in H.R. 3962 Affordable Health Care for America Act involves the requirement for your health insurance plan to provide and pay for assisted suicide counseling.

Section 240 requires that all companies offering a qualified health benefits plan to “provide for the dissemination of information related to end-of-life planning to individuals seeking enrollment in Exchange-participating health benefits plans offered through the Exchange” [Sec. 240(a)(1)]. This section also explicitly states that the insurance company cannot promote suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing [Sec. 240(a)(3) and Sec. 240(d)(1)].

The problem is that this section does not “preempt or otherwise have any effect on State laws regarding advance care planning, palliative care, or end-of-life decision-making” [Sec. 240(d)(3)]. Oregon, the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, does not consider their legislation to have allowed “suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.” Instead, they consider their legislation to have allowed patients to make a choice to face “death with dignity.” In fact, it is called the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, as is the Washington version passed into law last year.

Thus, your health insurance plan will now be required to promote and pay for “death with dignity” consultations in those states that have passed such legislation. Why is it that this bill is interested in promoting life-ending programs rather than life-saving or life-extending programs?

For more information on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, go to the Oregon Department of Human Services . For more information on Washington’s Death with Dignity Act, go to the Washington Department of Health.

H.R. 3962 is just plain wrong for America; it does not protect human life and our well-being at any age or any stage as it purports to do; instead it does exactly the opposite: it promotes death and the devaluation of human life.

It is imperative that you contact your senator or representative today via mail, phone calls, and emails. Go to the National Right to life for assistance with how to do this by clicking here.

[Corrected March 21, 2010]

Assisted Suicide in the United Kingdom

I recently spent two days at the 2nd International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.  Attendees from around the world gathered to learn the latest information on what is happening in the battle to stop the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In Part 1 of my observations, I’d like to start with some information from a speaker from the United Kingdom.

Dr. Peter Saunders, director of the Care Not Killing Alliance, spoke about past and current efforts in the UK to legalize assisted suicide. He noted the following as important legislative steps towards where the UK is presently:

  • 1961 Suicide Act — Suicide was legal, but assisting with a suicide was still illegal.
  • 1965 Murder Act — Outlawed the death penalty, but the intentional killing of another person was still illegal.
  • 2005 Mental Capacity Act — It is a crime for a doctor to treat a patient against an advance refusal (living will in the US).

After several failed attempts to introduce bills to legalize assisted suicide, the main pro-euthanasia organization in the UK (Dignity in Dying) changed tactics.  Since so many advances have been made in the area of palliative care and pain mitigation, the focus has switched from cancer patients with uncontrollable pain to people with neurological diseases – the argument being that they should have the option to choose when to die. In 2006, the Assisted Dying Bill was introduced in the Parliament.  The main points of the bill included:

  • This was physician-assisted suicide (modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act), not euthanasia.
  • Nurses would be involved in the process.
  • This bill was for England and Wales only.

After much work by the Care Not Killing Alliance, the bill was defeated. However, that has not stopped pro-euthanasia forces in the UK. In September 2008, medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock stated that dementia patients are wasting their families’ lives and wasting the resources of the National Health Service, thus they have a duty to die.

In early December 2008, British television aired a program showing the assisted suicide of an American in Zurich highlighted the growing “suicide tourism” that occurs in Switzerland due to its relatively unrestrictive assisted suicide laws. Shortly thereafter, well-known broadcaster John Humphrys announced he was co-authoring a book in which he will call for the legalization of euthanasia. Finally, assisted suicide was glamorized in a docudrama that aired in January 2009 on BBC called “A Short Stay in Switzerland.”

And now, there are efforts underway calling for an amendment to the Suicide Act to protect from prosecution anyone who helps someone to travel to Switzerland in order to commit suicide.

After you’ve digested all of this, click here to read Part 2, The Coming “E” Battle.