Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chevron out to buy Richmond election

This just in from AlterNet. File it under they're up to their old tricks. My campaign firm, GreenDog Campaigns did a training for the Team Richmond (non-Chevron) candidates for Council.

  News & Politics  

Death with Dignity - It's all about Compassion, and Choice

In July of 2006, I sat in a crowded Senate hearing  room waiting for a pivotal vote on the Compassionate Choice law, sponsored by State Senators Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine. The vote was tied when Senator Joe Dun, who had been counted as a supporter started to speak. It soon became clear that his vote was not going to go the way we hoped. When he gave a long disquisition on how his Bishop had counseled him of the potential harm this bill might do, we knew the battle was lost.

When he cast his nay vote, many people started to weep. People whose loved ones had died protracted painful deaths, and were supporting this bill to help out others in similar circumstances avoid the same fate, by offering them a “death with dignity.”

Full disclosure, at the time I was a paid consultant to the group Compassion and Choices  (get it, it’s all about compassion and choices) helping raise money in support of the bill.  Death with dignity or Compassionate Choice, as it was called then, is the right for terminally ill patients suffering intractable pain, in the last months of their lives, with counseling from medical doctors and psychological professionals, to choose to end their suffering by taking a lethal cocktail themselves.

I put my full disclosure right up front, because Debra Saunders, in her 10/14/14 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, saves hers for the very end of the italicized descriptive bit after the main column, oh by the way, my hubby is a paid consultant with the “anti-assisted suicide Patients Rights Council.”*

Saunders wrote her column in response to the very moving story of a young woman named Brittany Maynard who, suffering from a terminal brain tumor, had moved from California to Oregon, where she would be allowed to have a death with dignity. Her story had been told in the Chronicle the day before.

It's no coincidence people who oppose a person’s right to end their life under the circumstances described above, always call it “assisted suicide,” because well, you know, suicide, not a good thing. Surely if you are contemplating suicide, we can help. There are doctors, counselors, pills, lots and lots of pills.

Except for the one pill that might make a difference in the case of the lives of patients, and their families, who are suffering through the scenario above.

Saunders does get one thing right. Insurance companies are not happy with patients who expensive demand life prolonging care, especially if it comes with home caregivers.  No. no money for dying at home where someone has to be paid to do the messy stuff.

Saunders claims that insurance companies and “profit driven managed health care” may be steering patients in the direction of ending their lives.  For this she quotes Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund that “for every individual with a happy family who’s not at risk for abuse, there are many other individuals who may be subtly steered toward assisted suicide by their insurance companies or pressured by their family.”

While no one can doubt that there is abuse of the aged, disabled and dying by family members and others, opponents were able to dredge up only one story that could be considered someone being “steered” by an insurance company to toward offing themselves.  In that case, an insurance company refused to pay for an expensive drug prescribed for a lung cancer patient, instead offering a list of other drugs including, according to an unattributed Oregon media report “the one for physician-assisted death.”    

The true villains here are not laws that allows sick people a choice,  but voracious insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospitals and some physicians who want to squeeze the last penny out of consumers,  insureds and patients, with high costs, higher co-pays and guilt inducing propaganda that push family members and loved ones to go bankrupt to pay their bills.

In fact, in states where it’s legal, the statistics tell a far different story ignored by Saunders (and presumably her husband whose organization is listed among the conservative non-profits who benefit from and contribute to, at least indirectly, Koch brother money and right wing political causes)*

In Oregon according to the original Chronicle article, “since the law was enacted in 1997, 752 people have used the drugs to die out of the 1,173 who were given prescriptions. The median age for those who took the pills was 71 years old. Most had cancer. Just six people under the age of 34 have taken the drug, a barbiturate called Seconal."   

In fact, the young woman in the Chronicle article herself said she was not sure she'd take the drug, but, as in stories I'd heard from people in that hearing room in 2006, it is being able to have that choice that brings comfort.

Conveniently, Senator Dunn, who cast the deciding vote to kill the bill in California, within months took a lucrative job as executive director of the California Medical Association, which, along with the Catholic Church, was one of the most vocal and big spending organizations opposing the bill. I suppose becoming a priest didn’t appeal to him.

*A little research shows that The Patients Rights Council is the DBA name of an organization called the Family Living Council, in turn funded by the Randolph Foundation, which also donates generously to Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers group and other groups funding right wing causes and politicians. As “tax exempt” organization, it does not have to disclose who it gets money from, but I’m not holding my breath that the insurance companies and major medical corporations (including “profit driven managed health care”) are not somewhere in the mix.