Terminally Ill Mother of Four Says Health Insurance Company Told Her She Could End Her Life for $1.20



Stephanie Packer, a mother of four in her mid-30s who lives in California, testified Tuesday, June 25, 2019 while sitting in a wheelchair with an oxygen tube in her nostrils before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health about a proposed bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts (Senate Bill 1208).

Packer campaigned against a physician-assisted suicide law in California that was enacted in June 2016. Soon after the law took effect, she ran into a problem with her health insurance company, according to an October 2016 column in The New York Post. A new treatment recommended by her doctor was initially denied coverage, although eventually approved.

Below is a transcript of what Packer said on Beacon Hill on Tuesday, starting with the first audible words picked up by the microphone, shortly after she began speaking.

Stephanie Packer:

I was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2012. I had, ah, my primary condition is Diffuse Scleroderma, and that has caused pulmonary fibrosis. And basically it’s a overproduction of collagen, and my internal organs begin to turn to stone – they all become scar tissue. And with that disease, it just kind of snowballs. As many chronic – people with chronic illnesses can tell you that several diseases come along with it, including, ah, I have paralysis of my GI tract, and I have developed, ah, trigeminal neuralgia, which is a specific [word missing] disease — and it’s referred to as a suicide disease, because half the patients will kill themselves within the first couple of years of having the disease.

And, ah, we fought really hard in California to avoid, ah, this kind of a law to be passed. And, ah, when California did enact the law, it took over, and I was notified that week that my medications were no longer going to be prescribed. They weren’t going to cover my pain medication, my oxygen, or my chemotherapy anymore. And all these things had previously been covered. And, ah, when I called the insurance company to try and find out what was going on – and you know, telling them the information that I had, and asked, you know, ‘What am I supposed to do next?’ – and, ah, they can’t give you those answers. They can just tell you what they cover, and what they don’t. And so, ah, naturally, after working on this in California, I asked them about the suicide drugs. And, ah, she put me on hold, and came back and told me that I would qualify for those medications if I paid my co-pay. My co-pay for those, ah, drugs was a dollar twenty cents.

I can’t — can’t describe what it feels like when someone tells you that they’re no longer going to pay for drugs that will extend your life significantly, that’ll give me more time with my kids, and my family, and all these adventures we haven’t gone on yet. But for a buck I can go ahead and make it stop if I kill myself.

Read the full story at NewBostonPost.com…

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