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Nevada physician: Insurance companies nixing cancer treatment, promoting assisted suicide

Nevada physician: Insurance companies nixing cancer treatment, promoting assisted suicide

“Death with Dignity” laws seemingly manipulated to force treatable patients into the terminal category long before it is necessary to do so.

In 2015, I blogged that California had passed an assisted suicide law.

A year later, I noted that one young mother said her insurance company denied her coverage for chemotherapy treatment after originally agreeing to provide the fiscal support for it, but indicated it would be willing to pay for assisted suicide instead.

Now, the state of Nevada is considering its own version of assisted suicide legislation (SB261). In an effort to stop this measure, Patients’ Rights Action Fund (PRAF) releasing a video in which a Nevada physician discusses his personal experience with insurance companies refusing to reimburse life-saving treatments for seriously ill patients he wants treated at facilities in which assisted suicide has become legal. However, they seem willing to pay for less expensive lethal prescription for ending the patients’ lives.

Brian Callister, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Nevada, said he tried to transfer two patients to California and Oregon for procedures not performed at his hospital. Representatives from two different insurance companies denied those transfer requests by phone, he said.

“And in both cases, the insurance medical director said to me, ‘Brian, we’re not going to cover that procedure or the transfer, but would you consider assisted suicide?’” Dr. Callister told The Washington Times.

The phone calls took place last year within the span of a month, Dr. Callister said, adding that he did nothing to prompt the assisted suicide suggestion in either case.

“You would think the second time, I would have been ready for it,” the doctor said. “But I was so stunned, I muttered the same stupid line: ‘That’s not legal in Nevada yet.’ That’s all I could come up with.”

Here is the key point of Callister’s statements above: He indicated that the treatments were life-saving. Aren’t the “end of life” laws suppose to be only applied to terminally ill patients? If someone’s life can be saved, then I assert the definition of “terminal” is not met.

A second point, no less crucial: The home-states for the two patients were California and Oregon. If the patients had been residents of Texas and Florida, then perhaps their treatments would have been approved. Those of you who live outside of the 6 states that currently allow physician-assisted death may want to contemplate Callister’s experience if you should ever vote on the matter.

Kat West, national director of policy and programs at Compassion & Choices, which works to enact aid-in-dying legislation, says there is no evidence for Callister’s claim.

But Dr. Callister said it’s no coincidence the insurance agents stumped for assisted suicide over the phone.

“Now was this in writing? Of course not,” he said. “This was on the phone. They’re too smart to put that in writing.”

There have been several cases of insurance companies offering assisted suicide to patients in writing.

In 2008 Barbara Wagner received a letter from her state’s Medicaid program declining to cover a lung cancer drug that would have cost $4,000 per month. The Oregon Health Plan, however, did offer to pay for the 64-year-old to procure assisted suicide drugs, priced at $50.

The one bit of good news in these developments is that the young mother of four I mentioned in my opening was well enough in April to share her experience with Nevada’s representatives.


Ideally, all death would have little pain and much dignity. But that can never be legislated.

However, Dr. Callister does offer us a chilling insight of how the law can be seemingly manipulated to force treatable patients into the terminal category long before it is necessary to do so.


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It’s a good thing CA is working on Single Payer. Nothing like this would ever happen under the love your brother plan.


    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Shane. | June 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Can we work it so they only get to treat Democrats in that evil system?

KM from Detroit | June 1, 2017 at 9:02 am

But but but but didn’t the Left say “death panels” wouldn’t be a thing under Obamacare? That’s sure what this looks like to me.

Extending life has proven to be a very lucrative enterprise. Same goes for the termination of the unborn. They fill the till either way and they’re not about to give up any of it.

Coloradoopenrange | June 1, 2017 at 9:57 am

Red States will probably get the death option more often.

Death, or end-of-life is an incredibly complex issue and decision that simply cannot be discussed with these little snippets which seem to be more interested in finding fault than addressing sensitive issues that turn up when a person is at ‘the end of life’.

A guy I detest makes a lot of sense on this issue, Ezekiel Emanuel has stated he’ll no longer fight for life after age 75. In real life, whether he is 68 or 89, if he ‘changes his mind’ or some family member ‘wants everything done’ or if a well-intentioned doctor running a ‘life saving clinical trial’ in another hospital, and it’s all going to be paid for by someone else, why not?

The goal of most physicians is to take that ‘bell shaped curve of life’ and stretch the end, do everything possible to let us live as long as we can while we’re able to actually enjoy a decent quality of life. Moving heaven and earth to get a terminally ill patient ‘life saving’ treatment so they can stay in a nursing home with 24 hour care, maybe assisted suicide isn’t that bad.

As long as doctors, patients and families have no skin in the game, everything is ‘free’ and nobody has to worry about use of scarce time and resources of healthcare professionals, nothing will change. So someone (and everyone loves to make the insurance company the bad guy) has to stop and say “you want to do what?, do something that’s not evidence based, that costs a million dollars to possibly add 3 weeks to life, is this really what you want to do, doctor?”

Emanuel also notes that many of us really think we can force the healthcare system to keep us alive forever, at any cost. It just isn’t so.

    I think you missed the point of the article.

    If live-saving treatments are available, then the patient is not “terminal”. If the quality of life after such treatments will suffer, then the decision on whether to take the life-saving medicine or the life-ending medicine (or neither) should be left entirely up to the patient (with advice from his/her family, doctor[s], pastor/priest/rabbi/imam, etc.), not the disconnected bureaucrats and bean-counters.

    This sounds like the bean-counters are treating health like a zero-sum game; if treatment is expensive and death is cheap, they’ll choose death every time.

    The problem is they’re examining the cost of the treatment, and nothing else. There’s no thought given to how productive the patient might be after treatment (especially the referenced “young mother”). And nevermind that the patients bought (as in: paid into) the insurance plan under the expectation that their treatments would be covered, not denied with a “Have you considered killing yourself?”

    rabidfox in reply to Chicklet. | June 1, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    You only get one life. Why should it be cut short so some damned bean counter can get an ‘atta boy’ from his/her boss?

A blind person could see this one coming.

Assisted suicide laws get made on exceptional cases, and get followed up by legalized murders. And both the parties and the legislators involved know this.

I confirmed this to my satisfaction when I watched Sarah Palin receive scathing, demented criticism for failing to off her last kid.

These laws are not about freedom, or compassion.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Valerie. | June 1, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    To say nothing of how Obama, Hillary and all the Leftists, “progressives,” and Democrats were and are “murdering VETS at the VA?

Once you’ve legitimized and normalized homicide as an acceptable form of medical treatment, this became inevitable.

A baby, someone who is senile, or someone in a coma, can not consent to any treatment. What, then, stops a doctor from administrating the “medical treatment” of euthanasia without the patients consent, just as they would for any other “medical treatment”?

Europe, especially Belgium and the Netherlands, has given us fair warning of the consequences of this.

Don’t know for sure, but it seems lefties might take advantage of the “Exit” strategy more often than conservatives.

Medical science like all sciences cannot advance without continuing research. Oftentimes, these treatments for Alzheimer’s and cancer are part of those ongoing research efforts. This is research that cannot be performed in a vacuum but requires real live patients.

Insurance companies and government with absolute determinant power to stop treatments based on a cost/benefit analysis considering only the patient’s life expectancy would set back this research. This is not a decision wherein based upon the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one; nor is it based upon the needs of the one outweighing the needs of the many.

BradleyMTaas | June 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm

The Oregon model laws allow that one could be diagnosed and dead in 15 days with immunity for your predatory heir/new friend, all before your family knows. Respectfully, Bradley Williams President MTaas org

Why hasn’t this been brought up in court? Don’t we have rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness — with LIFE being the first mentioned? I know this is in the Declaration of Independence but doesn’t the Constitution cover executions and the legal steps needed for something like this.

Taxpayer1234 | June 2, 2017 at 1:12 am

Insurers don’t need an assisted suicide law. Medicare death-paneled my dad in 2003. Refused to pay for cancer treatment because the survival rate was 20%. Offered him hospice instead.

nordic_prince | June 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Slippery slope? What slippery slope?

Albigensian | June 2, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Chemotherapy for those with advanced-stage cancer is more accurately described as “life-extending” than “life-saving.” The difference is that life-extending treatment holds mo realistic possibility of curing the underlying, fatal disease. Nonetheless, given the reality that life ends, the line between “life-extending” and “life-saving” must remain somewhat blurry.

As with any scarce good, medical treatment will be rationed in one way or another. The U.K.’s National Health Service decided some time ago that, given the reality of limited resources, it should adopt a utilitarian ethic of providing the most quality-adjusted life-years possible within its resource constraints.

One manifestation of this utilitarianism is to deny all but palliative treatment from those whose cures may be possible but costly if/when their quality-adjusted life-expectancy is low. Even so, there remains a line between refusing to pay for costly treatment, and actively (and inevitably coercively) promoting life-ending “treatment.”

One thing that seems inevitable is that when government rations health care, the rationing criteria will inevitably be political, for how can any government be anything else?