In a new article that appeared in The Voice of Experience newsletter of the American Bar Association, Washington State elder law attorney Margaret Dore explained how she got involved in the fight against [the] legalization of assisted suicide. The ABA newsletter is only available to subscribers, but the article, Preventing Abuse and Exploitation: A Personal Shift in Focus. An article about guardianship, elder abuse and assisted suicide, also appears on Dore's Choice Is An Illusion website.
Dore recounted some early experiences in handling guardianship cases involving elders. Initially, she worked within the system, but then things changed:
I got a case involving a competent man who had been railroaded into guardianship. The guardian, a company, refused to let him out. The guardian also appeared to be churning the case, i.e., causing conflict and then billing for work to respond to the conflict and/or to cause more conflict. . . .
At this point, the scales began to fall from my eyes. My focus started to shift from working within the system to seeing how the system itself sometimes facilitates abuse. This led me to write articles addressing some of the system's flaws. See e.g., Margaret K. Dore, Ten Reasons People Get Railroaded into Guardianship, 21 AM. J. FAM. L. 148 (2008), available at http://www.margaretdore.com/pdf/Dore_AJFL_Winter08.pdf.Dore's career as an elder law attorney brought new elements to the discussion of potential issues affecting elders who might be victimized. As Dore noted in her ABA article:
In 2011, Met Life released [a ] study . . . , which described how financial abuse can be catalyst for other types of abuse and which was illustrated by the following example. "A woman barely came away with her life after her caretaker of four years stole money from her and pushed her wheelchair in front of a train. After the incident the woman said, "We were so good of friends . . . I'm so hurt that I can't stop crying." [The study is available at www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2011/mmi-elder-financial-abuse.pdf.]Dore went on to connect the dots between elder financial abuse and assisted suicide:
In the United States, physician-assisted suicide is legal in three states: Oregon, Washington and Vermont. . . .
All three laws are a recipe for abuse. One reason is that they allow someone else to talk for the patient during the lethal dose request process. Moreover, once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight over administration. Even if the patient struggled, who would know?
In this and other legal articles, Dore has brought new analysis and valuable insights to the public debate over legalization of assisted suicide. The majority of reported cases in Oregon and Washington involved people with education and resources. Unfortunately, an elder's resources are no safeguard against abuse. In fact, Dore's voice of experience would suggest that resources may instead be a motivation for it. - Diane Coleman