Nevada patients offered suicide pills instead of treatment

Daily Mail

Two patients were told to consider euthanasia because their insurance companies wouldn’t cover their life-saving treatment, a doctor claims.

As more states legalize euthanasia for the terminally ill, critics fear that this last resort option will become a first choice treatment method driven by profit-chasing insurance companies and financially-strained families.

Dr Brian Callister, an internal medicine specialist, said he has seen this fear become a reality in his own practice.  

The Nevada doctor said his patients were denied life-saving medicine by their insurance companies but were offered suicide pills instead because it was cheaper.

Dr Callister has teamed up with cancer survivor, J.J. Hanson, 36, who fought his way to remission after being given four months to live, to discourage more states from legalizing the practice.

J.J. Hanson was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare incurable brain tumor, and was given less than a year to live in May of 2014.

Hanson was struggling with a bout of depression when he heard of Brittany Maynard’s campaign for euthanasia.

Maynard was also diagnosed with glioblastoma and made national news when she died at age 29 under Oregon’s assisted suicide law in 2014.

Although Hanson, a former Marine, was given bleak odds, he is in year three after his diagnosis, going through multiple surgeries, treatment and clinical trials.

Hanson admitted he went through a brief period of depression and fears his fate would have been different if legal suicide was available in New York at the time.

Now Hanson is president of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund (PRAF) and is working with Dr Callister to battle legislation against medically assisted dying.

Hanson wants to ensure that patients aren’t pressured into assisted suicide by insurance companies.

He said to the Daily Mail Online: ‘This takes away the idea of hope and for patients to go forward. Once someone decides to do this, there is no follow up.

‘If I had decided to do it, there would be no follow up. You are on your own, there’s no prevention of someone jumping right into it.’

Hanson pointed to the case of Stephanie Packer, a California mother-of-four who was denied chemotherapy but told she could have assisted suicide drugs for just $1.20, despite wanting to prolong her life.

In a campaign video, Dr Callister said: ‘It’s a lot cheaper to grab a couple drugs and kill you than it is to provide you life sustaining therapy.’

Peg Sandeen, the executive director of Death with Dignity National Center, said in a statement: ‘We simply do not believe these tales of insurance company malfeasance. We expect that if Callister truly cared about his patients, he would ask his patients for permission to expose the companies and let the affected states investigate.

‘When Callister made these accusations at the Nevada Senate committee hearing we asked for more information, and when he repeated them at Assembly hearing he was questioned about it again – only to refuse to provide any evidence.

‘Given Callister’s refusal to supply any proof to support his claims, we are extremely skeptical whether any of what he claims ever happened.’

Hanson previously said: ‘After a state adopts pro-assisted suicide legislation, insurance companies can deny coverage to patients seeking life saving treatment. It comes down to resources for the insurance companies and government insurance providers.’

Assisted suicide is currently legal in Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Albania, Colombia and Japan.

It is also legal in the US states of Washington, California, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana.

Maynard brought national attention when she ended her life under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which was put in place in 1997.

Oregon was the first state to adopt such a law and a total of 991 people have died in Oregon under this act, as of January 27, 2016.

Maynard’s home state, California, legalized a similar law in June 2016, and at least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since then.

Under California’s law, patients must be given six months or less to live, make two verbal requests within 15 days of each other and submit a written request.

Still, critics say concerns remain that it will lead to hasty decisions, misdiagnosis, and waning support for palliative care, in which dying people can be sedated to relieve suffering

A recent study by the University Health Network in Toronto examined medically assisted death in Canada and determined that it was ‘existential distress’ that led people to chose this option, not the pain of the disease itself.

They were suffering more mentally than physically, with several worried about the strain they cause on their families.

A study examining the first year Oregon had the law, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999, said: ‘Many physicians reported that their patients had been decisive and independent throughout their lives or that the decision to request a lethal prescription was consistent with a long-standing belief about the importance of controlling the manner in which they died.’

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4 thoughts on “Nevada patients offered suicide pills instead of treatment

  1. “The Nevada doctor said his patients were denied life-saving medicine by their insurance companies but were offered suicide pills instead because it was cheaper.”

    ‘life-saving medicine’?

    The ‘suicide’ pills just work a little faster than Big Pharma’s poisons.

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