Terminally Ill Mom: Medicare Offered Me $1.20 for Assisted Suicide Drugs, Refused Me for a Clinical Trial

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 12, 2017   |   10:52AM   |   Washington, DC

California residents are feeling the damaging effects of the state’s doctor-prescribed suicide law less than a year after the deadly procedure became legal.

Wife and mother of four Stephanie Packer is one of them.

In an interview with Orange County Catholic, the young, terminally ill mom said her state Medicare plan initially refused to pay for her medical treatment but offered to pay for assisted suicide drugs instead.

Packer said she was diagnosed with autoimmune disease scleroderma, a potentially fatal condition, in 2012. Recently, when she talked with a Medicare representative about covering her treatment with a new clinical trial, she said she was refused.

The report continues:

So when Packer followed up with her insurance company in one of many failed attempts to obtain approval for participation in a promising clinical trial, she was flummoxed when a Medicare representative said the company wouldn’t approve the UCLA-based trial, but instead would charge just $1.20 for a medication to end her life.

It was a stark reminder of the far-reaching effect of the physician-assisted suicide bill signed into law in California last year, a law that Packer worked hard to defeat.

“I was just dumbfounded,” Packer recalls. “You won’t give me the medication I need to live but for a buck it’s OK if I go kill myself? I immediately got off the phone and talked to my mother, husband, girlfriends and doctors. True to my generation, I got on Facebook right away.”

Packer’s story gained a lot of media attention, and Medicare eventually agreed to cover the cost of her care, according to the report.

What happened to Packer is not an anomaly. In states where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, sick people are being denied medical treatment coverage and offered assisted suicide instead. LifeNews has reported about cases in Oregon and Vermont as well as California.

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“… what the public isn’t told is that sick people have other options,” Packer told the newspaper. “In supporting the new law, they are backing something that could very easily take their lives sooner than they want. They are making it impossible for some people to live. It’s disgusting and sad.”

Packer said she relies on her Catholic faith to help her through the difficult days.

“As a Catholic, I trust my faith and know there are certain ways God would want me to handle things,” she said. “I believe God is our maker and our lives are not our own. We are given our bodies and our place in the world; everything that I am and have belongs to Christ.”

The California doctor-prescribed suicide law is modeled after a law in Oregon, which, in 1994, became the first state in the nation to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. The deadly procedure involves a doctor prescribing a lethal dose of medication to an adult patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The California law took effect in June 2016.

Proponents argue that such laws are necessary to provide “compassionate aid in dying for terminally ill patients” and point to safeguards similar to Oregon’s, but the rhetoric obfuscates the real truth.

Disability rights groups, many in the medical community, pro-lifers and others are upset by the new law because of the potential for horrendous abuses of human life. One of their concerns is that doctors are not required to be present when the patient takes the deadly medicine; therefore, there is no way of knowing whether the person is taking the medicine of their own free will.

Another concern is that the law does not require psychological evaluations.

“A primary risk associated with depression is suicidal ideation,” Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition previously told LifeNews.com. “The data indicates that legalizing assisted suicide does not reduce suicide, rather it appears to have a suicide contagion effect.”

Many also fear that more patients like Packer will be pushed toward assisted suicide for monetary reasons. Assisted suicide drugs tend to be a lot cheaper than medical treatments in cases like her’s.

Colorado and the District of Columbia recently voted to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide, following Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California. However, Congress could stop the D.C. bill. Euthanasia advocates also are pushing bills to legalize the deadly procedure in other states around the country.

Readers can follow Packer’s story at fundingmorality.com and gofundme.com/StephaniePacker.