Today, I’m glad to have a bit of an expert on this to share some thoughts with us about the dangers that the Affordable Care Act could create. These life issues topics are near and dear to my heart, and, honestly, they should be in ALL of our prayers. –Sarah

Could Obamacare inadvertently legalize physician-assisted suicide?

By Michael Cahill

It’s less than six months before the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act become law in the United States. Also known as Obamacare, the landmark legislation is the administration’s answer to the rising cost of healthcare and the increasing number of uninsured Americans.

Could Obamacare inadvertently legalize physician-assisted suicide?

Will Obamacare actually succeed? Many critics have cautioned that the law won’t help everyone. While it will make health insurance more affordable for people with pre-existing conditions, young and healthy individuals will be the ones left to carry on most of the financial burden of insuring older, sicker Americans.

Aside from that, did you know that the law flies blatantly in the face of the morals of millions of Americans? Buried beneath the confusing language of the law are items like a hidden abortion surcharge and physician-assisted suicide. In fact, the latter is only mentioned one time in the legislation and with a suspiciously vague wording. Let’s take a look at what this all means.

Right now, physician-assisted suicide is legal in the states of Oregon, Washington, and Vermont under certain circumstances. Those states’ laws require that the patient is mentally fit and diagnosed with a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less. In Montana, doctors who assist in suicides are protected by the constitution, but prosecution and conviction are still possibilities.

Conscience Clause

Physician-assisted suicide appears in the new healthcare law under Section 1553, which reads as follows:

SEC. 1553. PROHIBITION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION ON ASSISTED SUICIDE. (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.

With this conscience clause, medical personnel and facilities are protected against the possible repercussions from health insurance companies. This is the ACA’s attempt to make sure that nobody is forced to perform such a controversial procedure against their will.

Isn’t this a good thing for pro-life advocates? It might be at first glance, but when you read between the lines, you can see where the problem lies.

The law avoids taking a stand for or against end-of-life procedures. With the inclusion of a conscience clause, the law makes it seem like physician-assisted suicide is a normal part of medical practice.

How will the future look?

While we cannot say what the real purpose of Section 1553 is, we can deduce that it might eventually be used to offer protection to doctors who assist in ending a patient’s life in states where it is illegal. It also has the potential to set the stage for a national policy on physician-assisted suicide.

It’s not far-fetched to consider that the whole nation could experience something similar to what happened in Montana. In the 2009 court ruling of the case of Baxter v. Montana, the court found no public policy exists against assisting suicide. So doctors in the state can use patient’s consent as a defense during trial. It may not be what the law truly intends, but it’s a likely consequence.

If the administration wants the public to support its health care bill, then it should lay its cards down and let the people know where it stands on sensitive issues like this one. It’s likely that the government will move away from controversy and let the Supreme Court decide on the matter.

However, when we look back at an interview during the 2008 campaign, then presidential candidate Barack Obama shared his view about physician-assisted suicide. When asked about Oregon’s decision to legalize the procedure he said that the state “did a service for the country in recognizing that as our population gets older, we’ve got to think about issues of end of life care, and people having autonomy to make these decisions.” In the same interview, he also conveyed his belief that terminally ill patients should be given the right to decide whether or not to end their suffering.

Many pro-life advocates are worried about the moral and ethical issues surrounding Obamacare. It might some time before we can really see where all of this will lead. Unfortunately by then, it will be too late.

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.