Friday, December 2, 2011

Ken Stevens, MD: "Eleven years later she is thrilled to be alive"

November 27, 2011

To Massachusetts Medical Society 

Dear House of Delegates Officers and Other Interested Parties:

I understand that the Massachusetts Medical Association will be voting on changing its policy against physician-assisted suicide. 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 likelihood of a 5% or less 5-year survival.  My patients in that category, who say, have a good chance of living another three years and who want to live, cannot receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to obtain that goal.  The Plan guidelines state that the Plan will not cover “chemotherapy or surgical interventions with the primary intent to prolong life or alter disease progression.”  The Plan WILL cover the cost of the patient’s suicide.

Under our law, a patient is not supposed to be eligible for voluntary suicide until they are deemed to have six months or less to live.  In the well publicized cases of Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, neither of them had such diagnoses, nor had they asked for suicide.  The Plan, nonetheless, offered them suicide.

In Oregon, the mere presence of legal assisted-suicide  steers patients to suicide even when there is not an issue of coverage.  One of my patients was adamant she would use the law.  I convinced her to be treated.  Eleven years later she is thrilled to be alive.  Please, don’t let assisted suicide come to Massachusetts.

        [Support for this letter regarding Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup can be found in these articles: &  My patient’s letter in the Boston Globe describing her being alive 11 years later can be read here:   ]

Kenneth R.Stevens, Jr., MD
Sherwood, OR 
Professor Emeritus and former Chair, Radiation Oncology Department, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon