Guest post by Michael Cahill, Vista Health Solutions
Within the voluminous Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) legislation, if you look closely enough, you can find some interesting things that have been glossed over by the mainstream media. Things like secret abortion surcharges and assisted suicide, just to name a couple.
The controversy over federally endorsed abortion and its hidden surcharges has been well documented in conservative media. But there hasn’t been much coverage of late about the legislation’s covert support for physician-assisted suicide.
Currently, only four states in the country legally allow assisted suicide. Vermont, Washington, and Oregon have unrestricted laws, meaning that the administration of life ending drugs is up to the discretion of the patient and his doctor (also it’s covered by insurance). In Montana, assisted suicide is legal through a court order. In the other 46 states, the practice is illegal and has been for most of the last century.
The piece of legislation in question is Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act, which reads as follows:
(a) In General – The Federal Government, and any State or local government or health care provider that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act (or under an amendment made by this Act) or any health plan created under this Act (or under an amendment made by this Act), may not subject an individual or institutional health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the entity does not provide any health care item or service furnished for the purpose of causing, or for the purpose of assisting in causing, the death of any individual, such as by assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.
To break it down, if a terminally ill patient requests that his doctor help him end his life, and the doctor refuses for moral reasons or whatever the case may be, that doctor is protected by federal law against discrimination. This can be a saving grace for doctors who may subsequently be targeted by insurance companies because of their refusal to help patients end their lives.
While this section is likely a relief to many opposed to assisted suicide, at the same time it’s also disturbing. The section essentially accepts that the norm is for doctors to prescribe lethal doses of a medication for a patient if he asks for it. This flies in the face of the more logical option which might be working with the patient to fight the disease or encouraging him to seek a second or third opinion before considering killing himself.
So what does this mean for the future?
The language of section 1553 seems to be intentionally vague. It’s not much of a jump to conclude that it was written with the intention of providing some cover to physicians performing assisted suicides in the states where it’s illegal.
A case arguing as such could very well be taken all the way to the Supreme Court, leading to a Roe v. Wade-type ruling in favor of assisted suicide. Could that be the Obama administration’s goal in including this section? Likely not, but it could still be an unintended outcome of it.
On a different level, it’s also discouraging that the administration chose not to definitively weigh in on the assisted suicide debate at a federal level. Their decision goes against the clear will of the nation, with assisted suicide considered a felony in most states.
Maybe this is because of the president’s personal stance on the issue. In a March 2008 interview, then presidential candidate Barack Obama said that Oregon “did a service” to the country in passing assisted suicide legislation.
He went on to say that while he would be hesitant to legalize assisted suicide nationwide, the United States has to think about these “end of life issues” because of our rising elderly population. Toward the end of the interview he ultimately voiced his support for terminally ill assisted suicide.
In less than six months, the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act will kick in. What the legislation will mean for pro-life Americans has already been reported on extensively. But the question remains, will the worst of those predictions come true? It’s sad to say, but right now things don’t look too hopeful.
Michael Cahill is Editor of the Vista Health Solutions blog. He has a degree in Journalism from SUNY New Paltz and previously worked as a reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal and an editor for the Rockland County Times. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealth and @ElectronicMike
[Images via sodahead.com, saschina.org]