Economic Aspects of Euthanasia

Right-to-die advocates claim that many people would prefer euthanasia rather than become a burden on their loved ones.
  • Opponents to euthanasia claim that the provision of adequate pain management and hospice (palliative) care could improve quality of life and eliminate the demand for euthanasia.
  • Healthcare funding allocations, shortages of beds and nursing staff will influence policy makers and doctors in the future.
  • The media have largely ignored the futile-care issue.
  • Due to the cost-effective nature of euthanasia, in the future, more and more people will be led to believe this is their best or only option.
  • In Oregon, assisted suicide is referred to as "comfort care."
"Right-to-die" advocates claim that the elderly and those with disabilities fear becoming a financial burden on their loved ones and would rather chose death. They state that next to pain and suffering this is the second most important reason people want to die by euthanasia.

A survey in Oregon, U.S.A., one of the few places where "assisted dying" is legal, showed , however, that in 66% of cases the reason for patients' requests was because they did not want to be a burden.

Obviously no one wants to be an encumbrance to their families and friends , and organisations such as the California Foundation For Independent Living Centers, Inc (CFFILC) claim the solution lies in the provision of adequate care for those who cannot manage on their own.

This provision of "life with dignity' is a key issue in the euthanasia controversy for it is in essence "the price of life'. Opponents to euthanasia claim further:
"Elected leaders must address the many environmental barriers to disability that might encourage despondent elderly and disabled populations to choose death for unsound reasons."

"The inadequate funding for palliative care and pain management, and governments' intransigent reliance on nursing homes, all contribute to the despair felt by many who reach old-age, endure frustrating physical limitations, or are afflicted with debilitating conditions.

"Elected leaders must address the many environmental barriers to disability that might encourage despondent elderly and disabled populations to choose death for unsound reasons. Attention to such problems as the monopoly of low-quality nursing care, low pay of personal assistants, the current inadequacy of pain management and unavailability of hospice care could improve quality of life for the severely disabled and terminally ill eliminating the demand for euthanasia". (CFFILC )

We live today in a society that places increasing value on money, multinational corporations exert ever-increasing power over a fragile network of political systems and to ensure these are not corroded means a thorough investigation of the issues at stake.

Before euthanasia became legal in The Netherlands doctors were provided with a booklet that listed the cost of all treatments. In the 1960's a British physician wrote:

"A decision concerning the senile may have to be taken within the next twenty years. The number of old people are increasing by leaps and bounds. Pneumonia, 'the old man's friend,' is now checked by antibiotics. The effects of hardship, exposure, starvation and accident are now minimised.

Where is this leading us? ...What of the drooling, helpless, disorientated old man or the doubly incontinent old woman lying log-like in bed? Is it here that the real need for euthanasia exists?" (Source: Euthanasia, Clinical Practice and the Law, ed. L. Gormally)
Healthcare funding allocations, shortages of beds and nursing staff, as well as an increasing elderly population in the future, will undoubtedly influence policy makers and doctors to look at euthanasia as a means of cost containment.

Wesley Smith, an internationally renowned anti-euthanasia activist warns: "Even though lives are literally at stake, the media have generally ignored the futile-care issue, viewing it as too arcane to be of interest to the general public."

Smith recommends that "patients and families need to be prepared to fight for wanted care if they are to surmount the barriers that the purveyors of the new medicine are increasingly erecting between defenseless patients and wanted life-sustaining treatment." He warns that they may want to have a lawyer on call.
"...patients should obtain assurances from their physicians that their own medical decision making will be respected and that "Doctor Knows Best" futile-care protocols will never be imposed upon them."


"At the very least," suggests Smith, "patients should obtain assurances from their physicians that their own medical decision making will be respected and that "Doctor Knows Best" futile-care protocols will never be imposed upon them."

Oregon cuts health benefits for the poor
Douglas K. Schmidt, aged 36, or Portland, Oregon, apparently suffered a massive seizure about eight days after his supply of anti-seizure medication ran out (Associated Press, March 10 03). He was taken to hospital unconscious and in a critical condition.

Jean Thorne, director of the Oregon Dept. of Human Services, called Schmidt's hospitalisation "a tragic circumstance", "but as we cut back the safety net, we're going to see similar cases... 8,500 people lost pharmaceutical coverage when the medically needy program was cut. But beyond that we have another 100,000 who are going to lose their coverage on July 1: that's the date the Oregon Health Plan eliminates coverage for the working poor. And there's close to 500,000 people in Oregon without any coverage at all." (Source: Doctors and Ethics Autumn 2003 newsletter)
Compare the cost of thousands of dollars for treatment or a mere $35.00 for drugs in an assisted suicide in Oregan.


Due to the cost effective nature of euthanasia this will be the trend in the future, there will be more and more people who are led to believe this is the only viable option to their condition as any care or containment of their condition will not be covered. Compare the cost of thousands of dollars for treatment or a mere $35.00 for drugs in an assisted suicide. In Oregon, assisted suicide is referred to as "comfort-care."

Fear of being a burden
The fear of becoming a financial burden on loved ones is the second most important reason people want to die by euthanasia claim "right to die' advocates. However a survey in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal claims the figure to be as high as 66 percent.

Inadequate funding for palliative care means that many who reach old-age feel the despair of frustrating physical limitations and endure debilitating conditions that could be treated with proper care.

Pro-life groups claim the demand for euthanasia could be eliminated totally with high quality nursing care available across society.

Big budget blow-outs in health spending means that health-care providers will be forced to make budget cuts and this will result in less funding being made available for nursing staff and hospital beds. As the ageing population grows there will be increasing pressure to look at euthanasia and assisted suicide as a means of cost containment.

Economic cutbacks in health spending pose a major threat to those who are medically marginalised. If assisted suicide or euthanasia became legal, once the public had be de-sensitised to the whole idea it would then increasingly become a method of cost-cutting for health care providers.

In Oregon where assisted suicide is legal there are already cost-caps on health care provisions and while some life-saving surgery is considered too expensive the same company will front up with the money for a much cheaper alternative, assisted suicide. The same company can then claim the patient "chose' this option.

The Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals condemns this practice as "death squad medicine".

Obviously a major illness can wreak havoc on family finances. As the public debate about assisted suicide and euthanasia grows there will be increasing pressure placed on the sick to move towards death - what is now known as a "duty to die".

This may not only come through the major institutions but may insinuate itself in the most precious one, the family, as relatives see their inheritance being eroded by high health costs.

These figures speak volumes: The cost of drugs for assisted suicide $35.00
The cost of proper health care $35,000-40,000.