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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't be fooled by assisted-suicide bill

http://www.lowellsun.com/editorials/ci_19137188
The Lowell Sun
Updated: 10/18/2011 09:27:53 AM EDT

This letter responds to Marie Donovan's article about the proposed Massachusetts death-with-dignity act, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide in your state (" 'Death with Dignity Act' renews end-of-life debate"). I am an attorney in Washington state, one of just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal. The other state is Oregon. I am also president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide as an issue of public safety (
www.choiceillusion.org).

In both Washington and Oregon, assisted-suicide laws were passed via highly financed sound-bite, ballot-initiative campaigns. No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature -- despite more than 100 attempts. This year, a bill was defeated in the New Hampshire House, 234 to 99.

The proposed Massachusetts act is a recipe for elder abuse. Key provisions include that an heir, who will benefit financially from a patient's death, is allowed to actively help sign the patient up for the lethal dose. See e.g., Section 21 allowing one of two witnesses on the lethal-dose request form to be an heir (
http://www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/Government/2011-Petitions  ).

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight over administration. The proposed act does not require that a doctor or anyone else be present at the time of death. This creates the opportunity for an heir, or another person who will benefit from the death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without the patient's consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?

Donovan's article prominently features a discussion of religion. In Washington state, proponents used similar discussions and even religious slurs to distract voters from the pitfalls of legalization. What the proposed law said and did was all but forgotten.

Do not be deceived.
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MARGARET DORE
Choice is an Illusion
Seattle, Wash.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hawaii: An Odd Claim of Legality

Barbara Coombs Lee has a new article on Huffington Post, claiming that physician-assisted suicide ("aid in dying") is legal in Hawaii.  This is an odd claim given that bills to legalize assisted suicide in Hawaii have repeatedly failed, most recently this year.[1]

Coombs Lee's article begins with a discussion of melting snow, moves on to a panel of experts, focuses on Montana and then finally discusses the law of Hawaii.[2]  With regard to Hawaii, her arguments are similar to those presented in a brief drafted by Kathryn Tucker.[3]  My prior critique of that brief states in part:

"In Hawaii, bills to enact physician-assisted suicide have repeatedly failed and/or been defeated in the Legislature since at least 2002.[7] This fact alone is sufficient to defeat Tucker's claim that [a 1909] statute has somehow already legalized assisted suicide.  Consider for example, Lawrence v. Lawrence, 105 Wn.App. 683, 687-8, 20 P.3d 972 (2001).  The Washington State Court of Appeals held that the "friendly parent concept" was not the law because bills to enact it had been rejected by the legislature.  In Hawaii, bills to enact physician-assisted suicide have repeatedly failed and/or been rejected in the legislature.  For this reason alone, physician-assisted suicide is not the law of Hawaii."

http://www.choiceillusion.org/2011/09/hawaii-assisted-suicide-is-not-already.html

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1.  On February 7, 2011, SB 803 was defeated in Committee 4 to 0.  See Hawaii Legislative website at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2011/lists/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=803
2.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-coombs-lee/hawaii-aid-in-dying_b_995217.html.
3.  Kathryn Tucker, "End-of-life Law and Policy in Hawaii Aid in Dying," as of September 20, 2011, available at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/tucker-brief_0011.pdf

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.