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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Montana Propaganda: Baxter & Assisted Suicide

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, has posted a propaganda piece on Huffington Post falsely claiming that a physician who assists a suicide in Montana is "safe" from prosecution.  My request for equal time to correct the record on Huffington Post has been ignored.  A discussion of the actual law of Montana is set forth below. 

A.  Assisted Suicide

There are just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.  These states have statutes that give doctors and others who participate in a qualified patient’s suicide, immunity from criminal and civil liability.  (ORS 127.800-995 and RCW 70.245). 

In Montana, by contrast, the law on assisted suicide is governed by the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234 (2009).  Baxter gives doctors who assist a suicide a potential defense to criminal prosecution.  Baxter does not legalize assisted suicide by giving doctors or anyone else immunity from criminal and civil liability.  Under Baxter, a doctor cannot be assured that a particular suicide will qualify for the defense. 

B.  The Baxter Decision is Wrong

Baxter found that there was no indication in Montana law that physician-assisted suicide, which the Court termed “aid in dying,” is against public policy.  (354 Mont. at 240, ¶¶ 13, 49-50).  Based on this finding, the Court held that a patient’s consent to assisted suicide “constitutes a statutory defense to a charge of homicide against the aiding physician.”  (Id. at 251, ¶ 50).

Baxter, however, overlooked caselaw imposing civil liability on persons who cause or fail to prevent a suicide.  See e.g., Krieg v. Massey, 239 Mont. 469, 472-3 (1989) and Nelson v. Driscoll, 295 Mont. 363, ¶¶ 32-33 (1999).  Baxter also overlooked elder abuse.  The Court stated that the only person “who might conceivably be prosecuted for criminal behavior is the physician who prescribes a lethal dose of medication.”  (354 Mont. at 239, ¶ 11).  The Court thereby overlooked criminal behavior by family members and others who benefit from a patient’s death, for example, due to an inheritance.

The Baxter decision is fundamentally flawed and wrong.

C.  Doctors are not "Safe" Under Baxter

Baxter is a narrow decision via which doctors cannot be assured that a particular suicide will qualify for the defense. Attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman provide this analysis:

"If the patient is less than 'conscious,' is unable to 'vocalize' his decision, or gets help because he is unable to 'self-administer,' or the drug fails and someone helps complete the killing, Baxter would not apply. . . .

http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/baxter-case-analysis.html

Even if a doctor "beats the rap" on prosecution, there is the issue of civil liability.  See Krieg and Nelson, supra.  Like O.J. Simpson, a doctor who escapes criminal liability could find himself sued by a family member upset that he "killed mom."  The doctor could be held liable for civil damages.

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Margaret Dore is President of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted-suicide. (www.choiceillusion.org She is also an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.

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[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-coombs-lee/aid-in-dying-montana_b_960555.html 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Barbara Coombs Lee Renews Plea to Eliminate Oregon Reporting Consistent with Elder Abuse

Today, Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, published a blog on Huffington Post arguing that reporting for Oregon's assisted suicide act is no longer needed.[1]  This is the same claim that Compassion & Choices made in Montana before its proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide was defeated last February.

The reporting in question is consistent with elder abuse, i.e., of people with money.  This quote is from my memo against Compassion & Choices' bill, SB 167:

"Doctor reporting is . . . eliminated.1  The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, claims that this is because Oregon’s reporting system has “demonstrated the safety of the practice.”2  To the contrary, Oregon’s reports support that the claimed safety is speculative.  The reported statistics are also consistent with elder abuse.  No wonder Compassion & Choices wants the reporting system gone."

To view the entire memo, click here. 

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[1]  Barbara Coombs Lee, "What We Know From Oregon's 'Death with Dignity' Experiment," Huffington Post, September 10, 2011 ("Bureaucratic paperwork has provided important data demonstrating the safety of aid in dying [assisted suicide] . . .").  To view her post, click here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Emperor Has No Clothes: "VSED"

Euthanasia proponents have a new campaign promoting starvation and dehydration.  VSED: "voluntarily" stopping eating and drinking.  Below, Kate Kelly provides a real life example:  "I watched her suffer."

______________________________________________

Mild stroke led to mother's forced starvation 

By Kate Kelly,  edited by Margaret Dore.

I watched an old woman die of hunger and thirst.  She had Alzheimer's, this old woman, and was child-like, trusting, vulnerable, with a child's delight at treats of chocolate and ice cream, and a child's fear and frustration when tired or ill.

I watched her die for six days and nights.

I watched her suffer, and I listened to the medical practitioners, to a son who legally decided her fate, and to an eldest daughter who advised him and told me that the old woman, my mother, was "comfortable," except when she was "in distress," at which times the nurses medicated her to make her "comfortable" again.

I watched the old woman develop ulcerations inside her mouth as she became more and more dehydrated; the caregivers assured me these were not painful.

I listened to her breathing become more and more laboured, as her lungs became congested from the morphine administered every three to four hours, and later every hour.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Response to The Nation: Legal Assisted Suicide is a Recipe for Abuse; Health Care Providers are Empowered to Steer Patients to Suicide

Yesterday, NPR and The Nation featured a pro-assisted suicide commentary by Ann Neumann.[1]  Her commentary overlooked gaps in the Oregon and Washington assisted-suicide laws.  She uncritically accepted Compassion & Choices's marketing claims that it promotes patient choice for "terminal" patients.  This blog presents the other side.

A Recipe for Abuse

Physician-assisted suicide laws in Oregon and Washington have gaps that put patients at risk.[2] The most obvious gap is a lack of witnesses at the death.[3] Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else to administer the lethal dose to the patient against his will. Even if the patient struggled, who would know?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Physician-Assisted Suicide: Not Legal in Montana; A Recipe for Elder Abuse and More

For a print version of this article, go here.

By Margaret Dore

A. Introduction

 Proponents claim that physician-assisted suicide is legal in Montana. This is untrue. A bill that would have accomplished that goal was defeated in the 2011 legislature.

Legal physician-assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse. It empowers heirs and others at the expense of older people. It empowers health care providers at the expense of patients.  In Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, legalization is statistically correlated to an increase in other suicides.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Washington State’s Assisted Suicide Report: No Information About Consent

By Margaret K. Dore, Esq.[1]

On March 10, 2011, Washington State issued a formal report about its physician-assisted suicide act.[2] The report does not address whether the people who died under the act did so on a voluntary basis. The information provided is inherently unreliable.

A. Washington’s Act

Washington’s assisted suicide act was enacted via a ballot initiative in 2008 and went into effect in 2009.[3]

During the election, proponents claimed that the act’s passage would assure individuals control over their deaths. The act, however, has significant gaps so that such control is not assured. For example, the act allows a person’s heir, who will benefit financially from the death, to assist in signing the person up for the lethal dose.[4]

Dr. Stevens in Missoulian Online

Assisted suicide has led to higher suicide rate in Oregon

January 7, 2011
http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_2c5b2242-18f6-11e0-8109-001cc4c03286.html
I am a doctor in Oregon, where we have legal physician-assisted suicide. I write in support of Sen. Greg Hinkle’s quoted comments about suicide prevention and elder abuse. See editorial, “365 Days of Debate,” Jan. 2. I also provide some statistics from Oregon.


First, Oregon’s high suicide rate. In September 2010, the Oregon Health Authority released statistics that our suicide rate, which excludes suicide under our assisted suicide act, is 35 percent higher than the national average. www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0909a.pdf. This rate has been “increasing significantly since 2000.” Just three years prior, in 1997, we legalized assisted suicide. There is at least a statistical correlation between these two events.


Second, the number of persons dying under our assisted suicide law has been steadily increasing. See www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year12.pdf.


Third, and yet another distinction for Oregon, we now rank dead last in paid ombudsmen who advocate for the elderly. Just this Friday, the Oregonian newspaper reported that we rank 52nd “in the number of paid ombudsman who investigate and resolve complaints for people in long term care.”
http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2010/12/oregon_ranks_last_in_number_of.html
These statistics are but part of the picture that Oregon is not the best place to be vulnerable, sick or old.


Don’t follow Oregon’s lead. Keep assisted suicide out of Montana.


Kenneth Stevens,
Sherwood, Ore.