New Policy Would Feed Assisted Suicide

Bradley Mattes   |   August 23, 2018

To make your voice heard, please contact the Oregon Health Authority at (503) 947-2340 or by email at

Americans were outraged by the Tuskegee syphilis study on black men. It subjected a segment of society to considerable health risk. Today it’s justifiably and uniformly condemned.

There’s no way our government would now exclude vital health care and treatment to vulnerable citizens in America. Right?


In 1932 the Public Health Service began a study regarding the treatment of syphilis using black men as their subjects. Without their informed consent, nearly 400 men with syphilis were not actually being treated for their illness. The program continued until 1972 when an Associated Press article blew the whistle on the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” The resultant public outcry ultimately ended this travesty a year later.

An echo of history is unfolding in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is proposing that all of the state’s Medicaid patients now receiving opioid pain medicine be forced to taper their drugs to zero within a twelve-month period. No exceptions. Not even for those who show no sign of addiction or abuse. It could go into effect as early as October.

This state health bureaucracy says less fortunate patients can instead rely on things like chiropractic care, acupuncture or deep tissue massage. Adding to suspicion are three acupuncturists and a chiropractor serving on the committee.

The proposal has generated significant protest, mainly by patients dependent upon these medicines necessary to maintain a tolerable quality of life. The controversial move also has critics in medicine. The forced taper, says Dr. Stefan Kertesz, a pain and addiction specialist, lacks scientific proof that it’s better for patients.

This would be absolutely devastating for patients. Allow me to share my own personal experience. Chronic spine pain had driven me to the point of hopelessness and desperation by the time I found a competent and empathetic pain specialist. My breakthrough came with the prescription of adequate pain medications. Over time, supplementing them with deep tissue massage and acupuncture (not covered by insurance), enabled the elimination of the heavy-duty pain meds but required an ongoing prescription of a lower-level medicine to make things tolerable. But the reality is most patients don’t benefit from these alternative methods of health care.

In Oregon the stakes are high, and the victimization will likely be widespread, impacting scores of its citizens. The math is simple. Currently, the state has nearly one million patients enrolled in Medicaid. Approximately 10 percent of adults struggle with chronic pain.

It could get much worse. Backers of this proposal hope that it might be a model for the entire state, including private insurers. And if implemented, it may be adopted by other states.

Not to worry says an OHA spokesperson. People with legitimate needs for the meds could “request” an exception. The thought of being at the mercy of a state government bureaucrat sends a chill up my chronically painful spine!

Laura Dolph/ Photo: Natalie Behring, STAT

Is it a coincidence that Oregon’s state budget has a billion-dollar shortfall and that it has legalized assisted suicide? The state would reap considerable savings if it were to direct patients away from critical, dollar-consuming health care and into ending their lives. Dead people don’t accrue high medical expenses.

Besides driving less-fortunate patients to end their lives, hopelessness and desperation may force them to dangerous black-market drugs. Laura Dolph’s drug addiction began when she was denied meds for her chronic pain medicine after a car accident. She twice attempted suicide. Laura’s daughter said her problems stemmed from a lack of access to legitimately-needed pain medication.

The comparison between the Tuskegee travesty and the Oregon experiment is appropriate.

  • Both target society’s more vulnerable citizens.
  • Both demonstrate a lack of respect for human life.
  • Both are callous to its repercussions.


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11 thoughts on “New Policy Would Feed Assisted Suicide

  1. I hope they are planning to cover more requests for disability. Most of us with chronic pain can be functional because our pain can be controlled with pain medications.

  2. I am very pro-life and against assisted suicide. The article above was disturbing to me as I read it Medicare. But, since it is Medicaid, how do we know they aren’t just trying to get rid of supplying drugs to dead beat addicts who abuse the system?

    1. Thanks for your comment. Because the proposal applies to everyone currently on Medicaid irrespective of if they are abusing the system, that suggests it’s not simply some kind of welfare reform.

  3. The vast majority of people on Medicaid are not abusing the system.

    Most people receiving Medicaid are disabled. Very few able-bodied poor people are on Medicaid, especially with all the recent cuts. People who are found to be disabled and put on SSI are the most common people on Medicaid. These are people who were evaluated and vetted in a really long, involvd process which looks at medical records and does private interviews and determines that they are too badly disabled to work. Most of these people have very serious disabilities, as SSI is not an easy thing to get on. I know people with MS or terminal cancer who were not accepted. A person has to be badly disabled to be found eligible for SSI.

    Therefore, this hits the people who are most in need of it- the poor disabled, who are likely to have health conditions that cause pain.

  4. Also, Donna, there are very strict policies for dispensing drugs to people. There are all kinds of pain contracts and evaluations and strict scrutiny of those who take these meds.

    I know because I am on painkillers. I have to do a med count every week, and monitor what I am taking, I have a drug test every month to make sure I am not selling the meds, and I have to be on a special register. They are not just giving these meds out to anyone.

    In fact the medical community has been cracking down on meds throughout the country and a lot of people who need the meds are losing them. there has been a string of suicides of chronically ill people who were stable on pain meds for years, then had them taken away because of new regulations, and subsequently killed themselves. Here is a list of some.

  5. When you’re in pain you can think of nothing else nothing else matters because you can’t pray can’t meditate you can’t watch TV you can’t go to church. What you do is think of ways of killing yourself.

  6. They better be building lots of additions on to thier nursing homes. When patients lose thier quality of life & the abilty to take care of themselves or to be able to live alone any more. Thier going to need to be moved to assisted living centers or nursing homes plain & simple.

  7. This proposal is absolutely horrific and sets a dangerous precedent for each state to follow. Taking pain medications away from the chronically ill does nothing to stop the illicit fentanyl and heroin crisis. We must fight back. Check out

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