I am a doctor in Oregon where assisted-suicide is legal. I am also a professor emeritus and a former chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Oregon Health and Science University. I have treated thousands of patients with cancer.
Valerie Lovelace’s Maine Compass promoting assisted-suicide ( “California shows that aid in dying can be a safe, legal option,” Nov. 20) states that where assisted-suicide is legal, insurance companies have never “forced” patients to use it.
In Oregon, however, there is financial steerage to suicide. The Oregon Health Plan will not necessarily cover a patient’s treatment to cure a terminal disease; the plan will cover the patient’s suicide. (See Susan Donaldson James, “Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon,” ABC News, Aug. 6, 2008, and Susan Harding, “Letter noting assisted-suicide raises questions,” July 3, 2008.)
Patients also can be steered to suicide without financial incentives. In 2000, I had a patient named Jeanette Hall, who had made a settled decision that she would “do” Oregon’s law after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. After several appointments, I managed to convince her to be treated instead. Today, 15 years later, she is thrilled to be alive. For her, the mere presence of legal assisted-suicide had steered her to suicide.
I first became involved with the assisted suicide-issue shortly before my first wife died of cancer in 1982. We had just made what would be her last visit with her doctor. As we were leaving, he suggested that she overdose herself on medication. I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.”
To learn more about assisted-suicide in Oregon, see my affidavit at https://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/dr-stevens-affidavit_001.pdf.
I urge the people of Maine to protect their healthcare. Don’t let legal assisted-suicide come to Maine.
Kenneth Stevens, MD