Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Arizona's Death Panel

For a conservative state that allegedly believes in the sanctity of life, as in the right to life, to condemn future organ recipients to death is nothing short of barbaric. It is health care rationing at its worst. Cruelest of all is that 98 low-income patients had already been approved for organ transplants only to see their hopes of a chance at life snatched away in one cold cost-cutting decision.

According to NPR, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) authorized donor transplants for 98 low-income patients but that was before the state legislature, facing a $1.5 billion budget deficit, decided to cut out all state-funded lung transplants, some bone-marrow transplants and some heart transplants. The state says the cuts will save about $4.5 million this year.

Francisco Felix, a Hepatitis C patient, had been waiting for a life-saving liver transplant

"Without funding from the state, Felix needed to raise $200,000 to pay for the liver transplant. The liver was directly donated to Felix from a family friend who died suddenly Monday. But because Felix's family could not raise enough to cover the cost of the operation, the liver went to another patient.
 Similarly, Randy Shepherd, who ran a plumbing business, told NPR that his heart muscle is weakening as a result of the rheumatic fever he had when he was much younger. AHCCCS was the only heath insurance he could get because of that pre-existing condition.

The agency approved Shepherd for a heart transplant more than a year ago, then recently reversed its decision. But he told NPR he's stopped being bitter because the agency paid for a pacemaker to serve as a temporary fix until he gets a new heart. Next year, he becomes eligible for Medicare and will seek help from the federal agency."

Using poor or misleading data, AHCCCS's report to the legislature says "only 15 percent of those waiting will actually ever find transplant matches." But, as NPR points out, "no one knows ahead of time which 15 percent that will be."

"The state's data also show the procedures have poor outcomes and that most patients die after the transplants. But critics say the data was cherry-picked, as it included only patients enrolled in AHCCCS and only for a two-year period.

A coalition of Arizona transplant centers, including well-known programs at the University of Arizona and the Mayo Clinic, recently gave the state data for a broader patient group and a longer time period. It showed much better outcomes."

State Rep. John Kavanagh, a Democrat, promises to hold hearings when the legislature convenes in January. He says the state can find somewhere else to cut the money.

Truthout says none of this had to happen.

"This didn't have to happen. In a special election in January 2010, the people of Oregon (a state with a comparable average income as Arizona) decided to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations instead of cutting essential services. Despite an all-out effort to convince voters that taxing the rich would hurt the poor, voters approved Measures 66 and 67, raising tax rates on those most able to pay and allocating the money to preserve state services.

. . . . Instead of taxing the people who caused and profited from this situation, our political system has bailed them out, buried their crimes and passed the costs onto the most vulnerable - people like the 98 poor men and women who were told their lives might be saved, only to have that hope taken away.

In Arizona, 98 families may be forced to watch a loved one die slowly. The rest of us must take a moment to accept responsibility for allowing this to happen and ask ourselves what we can do about it. Instead of hoping for a good-hearted philanthropist to break off some crumbs to pay for these surgeries, we must reclaim our power to force society and government to take care of the least among us."


A commentator says it best:

They can spend billions on wars, send to other countries, bail-out capitalists and Wall Street, even raise the deficit with tax cuts to those that have benefited from the bail-out, yet the "death panel" from Arizona condemned humans beings to death simply so save money.. no amount of words can justify what Arizona did or will do, NONE!!


  1. No surprise here. Republicans value money over life. Besides, these are poor people. Republican figure if you are poor, you should work until you can't work anymore, and then die. It is just like the republican healthcare plan if you are poor. Don't get sick. If you do get sick, die quickly.

  2. Good grief! Yet we will have to borrow money from China to pay for more of the Bush tax cuts.

  3. There is and has been something wrong with that state.

  4. Just imagine having a life threatening illness, being approved for a life saving organ transplant, and then being told, nope, you can't have it afterall. Shameful.

  5. Why am I not surprised?

    "The state's data also show the procedures have poor outcomes and that most patients die after the transplants.

    Most patients die after being born. Life is a preexisting condition.

    Every penny spent on people who truly need it is a penny Republicans can't give to a millionaire.

  6. Here's another angle to this, since we're talking about cancellation of a state program. Yes, some families will watch a loved one die because of this cost-cutting measure. It's a brutally callous, unconscionable way to save money, but judging by their pols, that's Arizonans for you.

    All states aren't quite so selfish and inhumane, so some families will get their dying loved one to somewhere ― anywhere ― that help can be obtained.

    Thus, Arizona exports some of it's most desperate, vulnerable people and their costly problems to other states. High fives all around where Gov. Jan Brewer and others of her ilk gather.

    This is yet another reason why we need universal, federally administrated health care ― think Medicare for all. Yes, we'll all pay higher federal taxes. But we'll all be free of the gouging, abandonment and a thousand other problems, plus worry about those things, that we have now. And, states won't get to export their desperately ailing to other states.

  7. TC: "Every penny spent on people who truly need it is a penny Republicans can't give to a millionaire."

    Or keep for themelves.

    SW: The only trouble with this, if I understand you correctly, is that people who are poor can't afford to go anywhere else for medical care. They're stuck where they are.

  8. The states can't handle this problem on many levels. This is a federal issue. SWA is correct. His last paragraph sums it up perfectly. But as long as the big insurance owns the government, nothing will change.

  9. Mr. C: I don't at all disagree with what SW is saying, especially in his last graph. I think when I read "Thus, Arizona exports some of it's most desperate, vulnerable people and their costly problems to other states" I was just thinking about a proposed bill I'd just read.

    Senators Wyden and Brown are hooking up to introduce another piece of legislation which would allow states to be able to opt out of some of the most onerous requirements of health care reform the year the law largely takes affect. While already in the original health care bill, it would have it go into effect in 2014 instead of 2017.

    a) The state waiver ensures that individuals get insurance coverage that is at least as comprehensive as provided under federal law;

    b) The state waiver ensures that individuals get insurance coverage that is as affordable (i.e. cost-sharing and protections against out-of-pocket spending) as it would otherwise be under federal law;

    c) The state waiver ensures that as many people are covered as under the federal plan;

    d) The state waiver will not increase the Federal deficit.

  10. Border security. A big issue in Arizona. Intended to save lives. The more spent on security, the more programs like these which actually save lives will have to be cut. Through the looking-glass!

  11. BJ: These a-heads aren't the least bit interested in saving lives as I know you know. As SW says it so well: " It's a brutally callous, unconscionable way to save money. . ."

    Mr. C: I forgot to thank you for stopping by. Hope you'll return. And you're right about big insurance companies owning the government. Maddening.

  12. ". . . people who are poor can't afford to go anywhere else for medical care."

    You don't have to be dirt poor to be unable to afford a $500,000 course of treatment or $1 million transplant and all the care that goes with it.

  13. Oh so true. It took me a second read to pick up on the acid in your voice. ; ) I just don't understand how I lived there for a few years and failed to pick up on this kind of cruelty. Maybe because I didn't have much to do with the natives? And I used to think I wanted to go back there. No way.

  14. Re: the Wyden-Brown plan from the provided link.

    Pardon my skepticism, but any scheme that requires "Republicans to be honest brokers" to get off the ground is not likely to go anywhere. Anyone who doubts that need only ask Sens. DeMint and McConnell why, and when they get through chuckling at how dense you must be, they will probably tell you.

    The one very slight possibility for some form of the Wyden-Brown approach to gain traction rests heavily on it being based on health savings accounts — something Wall Street and the financial industry want the way child molesters want employment at a day care center.

    Yes, there's the tantalizing mention of a single-payer approach in, "It paves the way for single payer or a plan that revolves around HSAs and catastrophic coverage." But when Republicans get through with it, look for single-payer to wind up on the cutting room floor, while the rest of it becomes all about health savings accounts.

    Think of it as catastrophic care the rest of us will end up providing for Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, CitiGroup and the rest, quite possibly in addition to our efforts to keep United Health, Cigna, Wellpoint and the rest of those enjoying the outrageous profits to which they've grown accustomed.

  15. SW: "something Wall Street and the financial industry want the way child molesters want employment at a day care center." LOL.

    I'm just as akeptical as you. I was just throwing it out there. The Republicans have already demonstrated they fully plan to continue with their efforts to bring this country to its knees.

  16. So now we know what the price of a life is for right-wing Republicans. That price is 1 cent. Yes, a single penny. As in, each person in Arizona would have to pay less than $1 in additional taxes in order to fully fund these transplants. But that $1 is, apparently, more important than the 98 people whose lives would be saved. Less than $1 divided by 98 people is... one cent. The value of life in Arizona.

    -Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

  17. Does that mean I can save two people if I give Arizona my two-cents worth?

  18. Only if you convinced all 6 million other Arizonians to give their 2 cents too. Which the skinflints apparently aren't willing to do, because 2 cents is more than a human being is worth in Arizona.

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  19. BadTux: Welcome. For folks who live in such a warm climate they're pretty damn cold. I don't think Jerry was speaking monetarily. ; )

  20. I overheard a travel agent in STarbucks saying he couldn't recommend his customers vacation in Arizona, he said it's too dangerous. He's got a valid point there.

    Ok, so Francisco won't be getting a liver. Francisco, in Arizona. It's all in the name, isn't it? Add it to his being poor...

  21. I'd say bingo but I think poor is the bottom line here. The other guy is a Shepherd. Regardless, it's absolutely a cruel beyond cruel decision.

  22. Frodo has closed escrow on the house where Bilbo lived. Now there is no reason for him to ever return to Arizona. It is a land of the old, the dying, and the diseased. Not all of these people suffer from afflictions of body, but it is in hearts, stonelike. Sad it is that a great generation slips into the gentle good night, but sadder still is the truth that most of us are glad to see them go.

  23. Frodo p Well that's one unpleasant hurdle behind you. Yes, there is some sort of sickness of the heart and soul there.

  24. On the sanctity of life in Arizona:

    Capital punishment is still carried out in Arizona even though studies in other states show it costs more for a capital trial than to incarcerate someone for 40 years. Arizona law permits the execution of anyone older than 15 at the time of the offense. There are currently inmates on death row who were 16 when the crime was committed.

    By the way, there is a national shortage of sodium thiopental, used in lethal injections...

    Last month Arizona bought overseas for the injection that killed someone on death row, the first time a foreign drug has ever been used, proving that if you're gonna kill someone in Arizona, no price too high, no means too unAmerican, no source of drug too distant, no cost too high.

    But a few bucks to save the innocent...? Forget it.

  25. Ah yes, in 2010, we are STILL enjoying the fruits of the Saint Ronnie Revolution.

    All we can do is wait for the Lamest Generation of selfish bigoted racist morons. to die off. Of course, most of THEM have that GUBMINT Medicare, so we may be waiting for awhile.

  26. Magpie: Lordy, I didn't know that. It's just so revolting I want to scream. Talk about a barbaric state. Maybe all these people who want to secede should move to AZ where they can have their own little third Reich. And then the U.S. could build a wall around it and have check points to let people in and out.