EDITORIAL: Patient says insurer encouraged suicide
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Mother and wife Stephanie Packer wants chemotherapy, but says her insurer decided to pay only for suicide after California passed a new law allowing physician-assisted suicide.

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As Coloradans decide on a dangerous assisted-suicide proposal, a California woman provides proof of our greatest fear. She wants treatment for a deadly disease, but finds herself at the mercy of a greedy insurance company that will only pay for suicide pills under the state's new suicide law.

An out-of-state special interest, funded by billionaire George Soros, wants Colorado voters to embrace Proposition 106 as a law based in compassion. Supporters say it will reduce end-of-life suffering. Simple as that.

The law will legitimize suicide and confuse young people contemplating it as a means of escaping anxiety, pain, depression and other challenges.

It will put ill and elderly individuals under pressure to die, sparing others the costs and burdens of caring for them. Greedy heirs are likely to coerce suicides to protect and speed transfers of estates. As an Oregon physician warned, assisted-suicide laws encourage insurance companies to deny coverage of expensive treatments and offer up suicide as the alternative they will pay for.

That's exactly the dilemma facing Stephanie Packer. The wife and mother of four was diagnosed with a deadly form of scleroderma, a chronic hardening and contraction of the skin and connective tissue.

"I want to live for my kids," Packer said on a video spreading through cyberspace. "I want them to see that dying is a part of life. Your end of life can be that opportunity to appreciate things that you didn't appreciate before, to say things that you didn't say before."

Packer said her insurance company initially agreed to pay a chemotherapy drug her doctors recommended. After California's End of Life Option Act took effect June 9, Packer's insurer changed its decision.

"It was a week later I received a letter in the mail saying they were going to deny coverage for the chemotherapy that we were asking for," Packer said, as quoted by the Washington Times.

Packer called the company, trying to get an explanation, and asked a woman if the company would pay for suicide assistance.

"And she says, 'Yes, we do provide that to our patients, and you would only have to pay $1.20 for the medication,'" Packer said. "As soon as this law was passed - and you see it everywhere, when these laws are passed - patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option."

Packer attends a support group for terminally ill patients. She said legally sanctioned suicide has changed the tone of the meetings, which used to be "positive and encouraging." With patients under new societal pressure to kill themselves, she said meetings "became negative, and it started consuming people. And then they said, 'You know what? I wish I could just end it.' "

Humans should not be treated as livestock. Don't put Coloradans in this sad predicament. Vote "no" on Proposition 106.

the gazette editorial board

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