Where’s the Outrage?

Do your remember the Nataline Sarkisyan story? The young woman needed a liver transplant which, if all went well, would extend her life by six months.

UCLA doctors put her on a list for a liver transplant Dec. 6 and a liver became available four days later, the family said. Her doctors told Cigna in a letter that patients in similar situations had a 65% chance of living six months if they received a liver transplant.

But the transplant was not done because Cigna deemed it experimental in Nataline’s case and refused to pay for it.

This became the cause celeb for those who want government managed health care and was pointed out as something which would never happen if the government was in charge. CIGNA eventually gave in to the intense pressure from outside groups and approved the surgery, but it was too late and Nataline Sarkisyan died.

CIGNA was lambasted for its decision, called cruel and heartless, the poster company of all of what is wrong with the health care system of this country and cited as a reason why we need government intervention.

However, a week or two ago a government system was highlighted making essentially the same decision. Canada chose to deport, rather than treat, a terminal cancer patient from the Philippines:

A nanny with terminal cancer in Toronto has been ordered back to her native country because of healthcare costs to the Canadian government.

Juana Tejada, 38, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006 after arriving on a federal three-year work permit as a live-in caregiver in 2003, but the disease has spread to her lungs, and she is now diagnosed as a terminal Stage Four cancer patient, the Toronto Star reported Monday.

Tejada asked Citizenship and Immigration Canada to reconsider her visa renewal but a letter from the agency denied the request.

“In the opinion of a medical officer, this health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health and social services,” the letter said.

Nary a peep from the “government health care” crowd. Afterall, it’s Canada. But Canada simply stated the reality of the case – the treatment cost would be excessive and provide no real benefit in terms of final outcome.

Now comes a story out of Oregon which ought to dispel all remaining doubts that the bottom line will drive a government run health care system just as it does any private one. Rationing of some sort will exist in any system:

Lung cancer patient, Barbara Wagner, was recently notified that her oncologist-prescribed medication that would slow the growth of cancer would not be covered by the Oregon Health Plan; the plan, however, she was informed, would cover doctor-assisted suicide should she wish to kill herself.

Treatment of advanced cancer that is meant to prolong life, or change the course of this disease, is not a covered benefit of the Oregon Health Plan,” read the letter notifying Wagner of the health plan’s decision.

Wagner says she was shocked by the decision. “To say to someone, we’ll pay for you to die, but not pay for you to live, it’s cruel,” she told the Register-Guard. “I get angry. Who do they think they are?”

Well who they are, ma’am, is your sole provider of insurance from whom you have no appeal.

Read that bold line again and tell me the difference between what CIGNA decided and what Canada and the government run Oregon Health Plan decided?

On the whole, not a bit of difference that I see.

So where are all the articles about how awful this decision is? Where are the protests and angry denunciations?

Nowhere to be found.

The irony? The pharmaceutical company that makes the cancer drug that Wagner needs has called her and offered it to her free of charge.

Oregon health care providers say they’ve seen a noticable change in how Oregon’s Health Services Commission has been willing to treat recurrent cancer in the state.

They won’t pay to treat you, but they will pay to kill you – “legally” of course.

Wesley J. Smith, a prominent conservative bioethicist, says that he was not surprised by the events.

“We have been warning for years that this was a possibility in Oregon. Medicaid is rationed, meaning that some treatments are not covered. But assisted suicide is always covered. And now, Barbara Wagner was faced with that very scenario.”

Brave new world, isn’t it?

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