When The State Incentivizes Suicide

One of the many serious concerns about the potential legalization of physician-assisted suicide is that by covering lethal drugs but refusing to cover expensive treatments, insurance companies could indirectly steer terminally-ill patients toward suicide.

Sadly, that is exactly what happened to a 41-year-old Canadian named Sean Tagert. According to the Christian Post, Tagert—who took his own life via assisted suicide on August 7, 2019—“felt his only option was to die by physician-assisted suicide after his requests for home healthcare were denied.” Tagert suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and he had requested coverage for round-the-clock care in his home. Vancouver Coastal Health, a public insurance provider, would only consent to coverage for home health assistance for part of the day. While coverage was available for placement in a residential facility, it was believed that this environment would not be an appropriate placement because it lacked some of the features that he had installed at his home to help him function and because it would have separated him from his 11-year-old son.

In a lengthy Facebook post published on Tagert’s page on Aug. 7, the day after he died by physician-assisted suicide, his friends and family pleaded with the government to “recognize the serious problems in its treatment of ALS patients and their families, and find real solutions for those already suffering unimaginably.” The family added, “‘Ensuring consistent care was a constant struggle and source of stress for Sean as a patient. While he succeeded, with the help of many, in piecing together a suitable care facility in his own home … gaining the 24-hour care he required was extremely difficult, especially as the provincial government refused to fully fund home care.’”

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