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Argument: Euthanasia would not cut health care costs by very much

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Supporting quotations

Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., and Margaret Battin, M.D., New England Journal of Medicine. "What Are the Potential Cost Savings From Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide?". July 19th, 1998. - "In the Netherlands, approximately 3,100 cases of euthanasia and 550 cases of physician-assisted suicide occur annually, representing 2.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, of all deaths...

Assuming that 2.7 percent of patients who die each year (62,000 Americans) would choose physician-assisted suicide...we estimate that legalizing physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia would save approximately $627 million in 1995 dollars. This amount is less than 0.07 percent of total U.S. health care expenditures...

Physician-assisted suicide is not likely to save substantial amounts of money in absolute or relative terms...for the nation as a whole."[1]


Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., and Margaret Battin, M.D.. "What Are the Potential Cost Savings From Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide?" New England Journal of Medicine. July 16, 1998 - "One large managed-care plan currently enrolls approximately 1.7 million adults and has an annual budget of almost $4.5 billion. In 1995, approximately 13,000 of the enrolled adults died, including 3,800 who died of cancer. Over the last six months of life, the mean cost for patients enrolled in this managed-care plan who died of breast cancer was $21,329 (in 1995 dollars), with about $9,500 spent in the last month of life. Assuming that 2.7 percent of the patients who died would have chosen physician-assisted suicide (351 patients), forgoing an average of four weeks of life at an average savings of $9,500, the managed-care plan's expenditures would have been reduced by $3.3 million, or less than 0.08 percent of its total budget. For other managed-care plans that tend to have higher proportions of young, healthy patients with lower death rates, the absolute and relative savings are likely to be even smaller...

The estimated cost savings from permitting physician-assisted suicide are lower than many people expect...

People overestimate the number of Americans who die each year. Less than 1 percent of Americans die each year. Of these, many would be unable or ineligible to request a physician's assistance with suicide, even if it were legalized: newborns with serious birth defects, minors, victims of trauma, persons who die suddenly from myocardial infarctions or strokes, and patients with dementia. More important, if Americans were to choose physician-assisted suicide at the same rate as the Dutch choose euthanasia, only 0.027 percent of Americans might choose physician-assisted suicide if it were legalized...

Physician-assisted suicide is not likely to save substantial amounts of money in absolute or relative terms, either for particular institutions or for the nation as a whole."[2]


Merrill Matthews, Director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the National Center for Policy Analysis. "Would Physician-Assisted Suicide Save the Healthcare System Money?", Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate. 1998 - "Would Physician-Assisted Suicide Save Money?

The answer to the question seems almost certainly no... The primary reason is that the number of people seeking physician-assisted suicide and being granted that asssistance is extremely small...

Most requests for physician assistance come in the last month, or even the last days of life, which would drastically reduce the actual amount of money saved. For example, in the survey of Dutch physicians, 64 percent said they had shortened a patient's life by less than twenty-four hours, and in 16 percent it was shortened less than a week."[3]

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