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Monday, January 27, 2014

"Is there a way to allow a person to end his life without making someone else a criminal?"

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

A legislator considering an assisted suicide law asked me this question: "Is there a way to allow a person to end his life without making someone else a criminal?"

This was my (slightly edited) response:

People take their lives all the time.  One of my cousins shot himself and another threw himself in front of a train.  There was no criminality involved.  Also, if people are in pain, palliative care laws allow medical personnel to give patients copious amounts of drugs, including up to sedation, which can hasten the patient's death. This is the principal of double effect.  This is legal.  For more information, read theAffidavit of Kenneth Stevens, MD, page 3, paragraph 13.

There is also palliative care abuse in which no one seems to be held accountable, except for maybe one case in California where doctors relied on a wealthy patient's daughters, who said that their father was really bad off and didn't want treatment, which was not the case.  At least, that's what's claimed by the man's son. See William Dotinga, "Grim Complaint Against Kaiser Hospital," Court House News Service, February 6, 2012.

I've had like 15-20 contacts in the past year by people upset about their family member being suddenly off'd by medical personnel and/or having DNR's put on family members/friends without the patient's consent.  My caregiver friends also talk about guarding their patients in the hospital.  Here are some letters from Montana.  http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2013/04/dont-give-doctors-more-power-to-abuse.html

Here's a letter from Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. The letter talks about doctors being quick with the morphine and also regarding the conduct of an adult son shortly after our assisted suicide law was passed ("an adult child of one of our clients asked about getting the pills [to kill the father].  It wasn't the father saying that he wanted to die"). http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2012/07/dear-montana-board-of-medical-examiners.html  Here's a letter from a wife about how she was afraid to leave her husband alone after a doctor pitched assisted suicide to her husband. http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2013/01/i-was-afraid-to-leave-my-husband-alone.html

There is also the issue that people who say they want to die don't mean it, as with any suicide.  See http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/what-people-mean-when-they-say-they.html

I've had two clients whose fathers signed up for the Oregon/Washington assisted suicide acts.  With the first case, one side of the family wanted the father to use the act and the other side didn't.  He spent the last months of his life torn over whether of not he should kill himself.  His daughter was also traumatized.  He died a natural death.  There is a Swiss study that you might be interested in, that 1 out of 5 family members were traumatized by witnessing the legal assisted suicide of a family member.  See http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/family-members-traumatized-eur-psych-2012.pdf

In my other case, the father had two suicide parties and it's not clear that it was voluntary.  My client, his son, was told that his dad had said "You're not killing me, I'm going to bed").  Regarding the next day, my client was told that his dad was already high on alcohol when he drank the lethal dose.  But then the person telling him this changed his story.  In Montana, Senator Jeff Essman, made a relevant observation regarding this point:
"[All] the protections [in Oregon's law] end after the prescription is written.  [The proponents] admitted that the provisions in the Oregon law would permit one person to be alone in that room with the patient. And in that situation, there is no guarantee that that medication is self-administered.
So frankly, any of the studies that come out of the state of Oregon's experience are invalid because no one who administers that drug . . . to that patient is going to be turning themselves in for the commission of a homicide."
Senate Judiciary Hearing on SB 167 on February 10, 2011

I, however, doubt that a person in Oregon could be prosecuted.  If you read the act carefully, there is no requirement of patient consent to administration of the lethal dose, and to the extent that's ambiguous, there's the rule of lenity.  In Washington State, prosecutors are required to report assisted suicide deaths as "Natural" - no matter what - at least, that's what the regulation says: http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/5300/DWDAMedCoroner.pdf   How can you prosecute someone for homicide if the death is required to be reported as "Natural?"

Here in Washington, we have already had some informal proposals to expand the scope of our assisted suicide act.  One in particular disturbed me.  A Seattle Times column suggested euthanasia as a solution for people unable to support themselves, which would be involuntary euthanasia.  See Jerry Large, "Planning for old age at a premium," March 8, 2012, which states:
"After Monday's column,  . . . a few [readers] suggested that if you couldn't save enough money to see you through your old age, you shouldn't expect society to bail you out. At least a couple mentioned euthanasia as a solution."  (Emphasis added)
So, if you worked hard and paid taxes all your life and then your company pension plan goes belly up, this is how you want society to pay you back?

As a Democrat, I see us as looking out for the little guy, not passing laws to protect perpetrators, healthcare systems, etc. from legitimate claims.  I hope that you will vote against any effort to legalize assisted suicide/euthanasia.

Thank you for writing me back.

Margaret Dore

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Montana Judge Hears Assisted Suicide Arguments

http://www.kxlf.com/news/montana-judge-hears-assisted-suicide-arguments/

Posted: Dec 11, 2013 4:38 PM by Sanjay Talwani - MTN News

HELENA - The issue of physician assisted suicide was in court Tuesday [December 10, 2013]
Judge Michael Menehan
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide is arguing that a policy position by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners implies that physician assisted suicide may be legal. 
A lawyer for the Board says that the position - since rescinded, says no such thing. Michael Fanning says the group bringing the lawsuit has no real case is trying to force the issue to the Montana Supreme Court.
The position paper, written in response to doctor inquiries, said that the board would handle complaints related to assisted suicide on a case-by-case basis as it would other cases.
Margaret Dore
Attorney for Montanans
Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS)
Margaret Dore, an attorney for MAAS, said the paper overstepped the Board's authority and implied to many that assisted suicide was legal in Montana.
"They are a board that is comprised of 11 doctors and two members of the public," she said. "It has no expertise to be making a pronouncement, that aid in dying is legal in Montana. That's the role of the legislature or a court and they are neither."
She said that such an understanding had huge implications in devaluing the lives of the sick and elderly.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quick Facts About Assisted Suicide

By Margaret Dore, Esq.*
October 7, 2013  
1.  Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide means that someone provides the means and/or information for another person to commit suicide.  When a physician is involved, the practice is physician-assisted suicide.[1]

2. The Oregon and Washington Laws

In Oregon, physician-assisted suicide was legalized in 1997 via a ballot measure.[2] In Washington State, a similar law was passed via another ballot measure in 2008 and went into effect in 2009.[3]  

3.  Throwing Away Your Life

The Oregon and Washington laws apply to state residents predicted to have less than six months to live.[5] Such persons are not necessarily dying. Doctors can be wrong.[6]  Moreover, treatment can lead to recovery. Consider Jeanette Hall, who was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to a year to live.[7] She was adamant that she would "do" Oregon’s law, but her doctor, Ken Stevens, convinced her to be treated instead.[8] Today, she is thrilled to be alive, 13 years later.[9]

With legal assisted suicide, people with years to live are encouraged to throw away their lives.


4.  A Recipe for Elder Abuse

The Washington and Oregon laws are a recipe for elder abuse. The most obvious reason is due to a lack of oversight when the lethal dose is administered.[10] For example, there are no witnesses required at the death; the death is allowed occur in private.[11] With this situation, the opportunity is created for an heir, or some other person who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without her consent. Even if she struggled, who would know?

For more detail about Washington's law, which is similar to Oregon's law, read a short article by clicking here or here.

5. Empowering the Healthcare System

In Oregon, patients desiring treatment under the Oregon Health Plan have been offered assisted suicide instead. 

The most well known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup.[12] Each wanted treatment.[13] The Plan denied their requests and offered to pay for their suicides instead.[14] Neither Wagner nor Stroup saw this scenario as a celebration of their "choice." Wagner said: "I'm not ready to die."[15] Stroup said: "This is my life they’re playing with."[16]

Wagner and Stroup were steered to suicide. Moreover, it was the Oregon Health Plan, a government entity, doing the steering.[17]  For more detail about the current situation, read the affidavit of Kenneth Stevens, by clicking here.

6.  Increased Suicide in Oregon

Oregon's suicide rate, which excludes suicides under its physician-assisted suicide law, has been "increasing significantly" since 2000.[18] 

Just three years prior, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide. This increased suicide rate is consistent with a suicide contagion in which removing the stigma from one type of suicide encouraged other suicides. 

7.  Proposed Expansion in Washington State

Washington State legalized physician-assisted suicide in March 2009.  Less than there years later, there were discussions to expand that law to direct euthanasia of non-terminal people. See, for example, Brian Faller, "Perhaps it's time to expand Washington's Death with Dignity Act, The Olympian, November 16, 2011.[19]  More disturbing to me, on March 8, 2012, there was a Seattle Times column causally suggesting euthanasia for people unable to support themselves, which would be involuntary euthanasia.  See Jerry Large, "Planning for old age at a premium," The Seattle Times, March 8, 2012 at  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/text/2017693023.html ("After Monday's column,  . . . a few [readers] suggested that if you couldn't save enough money to see you through your old age, you shouldn't expect society to bail you out. At least a couple mentioned euthanasia as a solution.") (Emphasis added). 

Prior to our law's being passed, I never heard anyone talk like this. 

Don't make our mistake.

Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. She is also President of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide.  For more information, see www.margaretdore.org and www.choiceillusion.org 

[1]  Compare: American Medical Association, Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211, available at http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion2211.page
[2]  The Oregon and Washington laws are similar. For a short article about Washington’s law, see Margaret K. Dore, "'Death with Dignity': What Do We Advise Our Clients?," King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009, available athttps://www.kcba.org/newsevents/barbulletin/BView.aspx?Month=05&Year=2009&AID=article5.htm
[3]  Id.
[5]  See ORS 127.800 s.1.01(12) and RCW 70.245.010(13).
[6]  See e.g., Nina Shapiro, "Terminal Uncertainty: Washington’s new "Death With Dignity" law allows doctors to help people commit suicide—once they’ve determined that the patient has only six months to live. But what if they’re wrong?," 01/14/09, available athttp://www.seattleweekly.com/2009-01-14/news/terminal-uncertainty 
[7]  See Jeanette Hall, Letter to the editor, "She pushed for legal right to die, and - thankfully - was rebuffed, Boston Globe, October 4, 2011 ("I am so happy to be alive!), available at http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/letters/articles/2011/10/04/she_pushed_for_legal_right_to_die_and___thankfully___was_rebuffed/ Kenneth Stevens MD, Letter to the Editor, "Oregon mistake costs lives," The Advocate, the official publication of the Idaho State Bar, Sept. 2010, (scroll down to last letter atwww.margaretdore.com/info/Stevens.pdf ).
[8]  Id.
[9]  Per her telephone call today.
[10]  The Oregon and Washington Acts can be viewed in their entirety here and here.
[11]  Id.
[12]  See Susan Donaldson James, "Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon," ABC News, August 6, 2008, athttp://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492&page=1; "Letter noting assisted suicide raises questions," KATU TV, July 30, 2008, athttp://www.katu.com/news/specialreports/26119539.html ; and Ken Stevens, MD, Letter to Editor, "Oregon mistake costs lives," The Advocate, the official publication of the Idaho State Bar, September 2011, to view, scroll down to bottom of second page here:http://www.margaretdore.com/info/September_Letters.pdf
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] KATU TV at note 12
[16] ABC News at note 12
[17]  See also Affidavit of Ken Stevens MD (Leblanc v. Canada), with attachments, available athttp://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/signed-stevens-aff-9-18-12.pdf  
[18]  See "Suicides in Oregon: Trends and Risk Factors," Oregon Department of Human Services, Public Health Division, September 2010, page 6, ("Deaths relating to the death with Dignity Act (physician-assisted suicides) are not classified as suicides by Oregon law and therefore excluded from this report"), available athttp://epcdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/or_suicide_report_001.pdf
See also Oregon Health Authority, News Release, "Rising suicide rate in Oregon reaches higher than national average," September 9, 2010, ("suicide rates have been increasing significantly since 2000") available athttp://www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0909a.pdf
[19] Available at http://www.theolympian.com/2011/11/16/1878667/perhaps-its-time-to-expand-washingtons.html

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Montana State Senator Greg Hinkle Corrects New England Journal of Medicine

Assisted Suicide is Not Legal in Montana
 
Dear Editor:

I am a Montana State Senator.  I disagree with your article, "Redefining Physicians' Role in Assisted Dying," claiming that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  At the very least, Montana law is unclear.

Last year, Senate Bill 167, which would have legalized assisted suicide in Montana, failed.  This leaves assisted suicide governed by a Montana Supreme Court case, Baxter v. Montana.  An analysis by attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman describes Baxter as follows:


"The Montana Supreme Court s assisted-suicide decision . . . didn't even 'legalize' assisted-suicide. . . . After Baxter, assisted-suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."[1]

Since then, competing articles have appeared in the official Montana State Bar publication disputing whether Baxter legalized assisted suicide.[2]  The editor's headline states: "Court ruling still leaves the issue open to argument." [3]

Correct reporting would be that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana and/or hotly disputed.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Senator Greg Hinkle
Thompson Falls, MT 


* * *

[1] Greg Jackson, Esq., and Matt Bowman, Esq., "Analysis of Implications of the Baxter Case on Potential Criminal Liability," Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity, April 2010, available at
http://montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Analysis-of-Baxter.pdf                                                
[2] Senator Anders Blewett (pro article), Senator Jim Shockley and Margaret Dore (con article), "The aid-in-dying debate: Can a physician legally help a patient die in Montana?  Court ruling still leaves the issue open to argument," The Montana Lawyer, November 2011, available at http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/montana-lawyer-pro-con-articles-nov-2011.pdf[3]  Id.

Friday, August 31, 2012

New England Journal of Medicine Article Misleading

Dear Editor:

I am a lawyer in Washington State, one of two states where assisted-suicide is legal.  The other state is Oregon, which has a similar law.  Lisa Lehmann's article, "Redefining Physicians' Role in Assisted Dying," is misleading regarding how these laws work.

First, the Oregon and Washington laws are not limited to people in their "final months" of life.[1,2]  Consider for example, Jeanette Hall, who in 2000 was persuaded by her doctor to be treated rather than use Oregon's law.  She is alive today, twelve years later.[3]

Second, these laws are not "safe" for patients.[4][5]  For example, neither law requires a witness at the death.  Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for the patient's heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?  

Third, the fact that persons using Oregon's law are "more financially secure" than the general population is consistent with elder financial abuse, not patient safety.  Do not be deceived. 

* * *

[1]  Margaret K. Dore, "Aid in Dying: Not Legal in Idaho; Not About Choice," The Advocate, official publication of the Idaho State Bar, Vol. 52, No. 9, pages 18-20, September 2010, available athttp://www.margaretdore.com/pdf/Not_Legal_in_Idaho.pdf.
[2]  Kenneth Stevens, MD, Letter to the Editor, "Oregon mistake costs lives," The Advocate, official publication of the Idaho State Bar, Vol. 52, No. 9, pages 16-17, September 2010, available athttp://www.margaretdore.com/info/September_Letters.pdf 
[3]  Ms. Hall corresponded with me on July 13, 2012.
[4]  See article at note 1.  See also Margaret Dore, "Death with Dignity": A Recipe for Elder Abuse and Homicide (Albeit Not by Name)," at 11 Marquette Elder's Advisor 387 (Spring 2010), original and updated version available at http://www.choiceillusion.org/p/the-oregon-washington-assisted-suicide.html 
[5]  Blum, B. and Eth, S.  "Forensic Issues: Geriatric Psychiatry." InKaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, Seventh Edition, B. Sadock and V. Sadock editors.  Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, pp. 3150-3158, 2000. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dore v. Morris: Assisted suicide debate deals with abuse, compassion


http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20120419/KAMLOOPS0101/120419759/-1/kamloops01/assisted-suicide-debate-deals-with-abuse-compassion

April 19, 2012

Lawyer cautions against legislating through courts

By Mike Youds, Daily News Staff Reporter
 
Margaret Dore (L) and Wanda Morris (R)

A right to medically assisted suicide may sound compassionate and just, but beware the details when it comes to the act itself, a U.S. lawyer warned Wednesday in a debate at TRU.

Margaret Dore shared some of her experiences with assisted suicide in Washington State, where the practice became legal through a ballot measure four years ago.


 "A lot of people think this is a great idea until they start thinking and reading about how you do it," she told an audience of about 30 people in the Irving K. Barber Centre.

In effect, laws in Washington and Oregon empower people who may choose to abuse the responsibility, Dore said.

"Your heir can be there to help you sign up. Once the legal dose leaves the pharmacy, there is no oversight whatsoever."

Wanda Morris, head of the Canadian charity Dying With Dignity, advocated for the right to choose to end life humanely.

"These are individuals who want to live, but they are individuals facing a horrific death," she said. "The fundamental difference is choice. Choice is important in Canada. Why is it, at the time of life when we're facing our toughest decision we could ever make, that choice is taken away?"

The issue has long been debated in Canada, where two years ago Parliament easily defeated a bill that would have permitted assisted suicide and euthanasia. Recently the subject has made headlines again with two court high-profile court cases in B.C. and Quebec.

"Autonomy is such a critical value, it is a cornerstone of modern medicine," Morris continued. "Nothing can be done without consent. And yet here, at the end of life, I'm not given that choice."

Dore said she agrees that people should have the right to choose how they die, but the U.S. laws don't give that. Four days after the Washington State law passed, the adult son of a care facility resident showed up asking how "to get them pills," she said.

"Who's choice?," she asked rhetorically. An adult child can administer the lethal dose with no one else to tell whether it was a matter of consent. "There is no oversight over administration."

Morris insisted that the law her organization has long pushed for would only apply to individuals with six months or less to live. Dore countered that such a restriction does not apply in the U.S. and pointed to a case where an Oregon woman, who was talked out of suicide by her doctor, remains thankful she has survived another 12 years.

There was a $5.4-million lobby for assisted suicide in Washington, a machine that was up against a volunteer group, she said.

"In Canada and the U.S., there is a very significant funder in this debate and it is the Catholic church," Morris said.

Opponents of assisted suicide argue from dogmatic positions and cannot be satisfied, she said.

"Excuse me, but I never said anything about Catholic dogma," Dore replied.

She warned that Canada, having rejected the idea in Parliament, is facing the possibility of legislating it through the courts with the Carter and Leblanc court cases.

"We have a blank slate and we can write in whatever controls we want to protect the weak and the vulnerable," Morris said.

New York Times: Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse


April 10, 2012 

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/04/10/why-do-americans-balk-at-euthanasia-laws/assisted-suicide-laws-are-a-recipe-for-elder-abuse


Margaret DoreMargaret Dore, a lawyer in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal, is the president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit organization opposed to assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide means that one person provides the means or information for another person to commit suicide. In Oregon and Washington, assisted-suicide laws were passed by ballot measures. No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature despite more than 100 attempts.

The Oregon and Washington acts apply to "terminal" patients, defined as patients predicted to have no more than six months to live. Doctor prognoses, however, can be wrong. Moreover, treatment can lead to recovery. My friend Jeanette Hall was adamant that she would "do" Oregon's act. She had been diagnosed with cancer and was given six months to a year to live. Her doctor convinced her to be treated. That was nearly 12 years ago.

Proponents tout assisted suicide as providing "choice" over the timing of one's death. But choice under the Oregon and Washington acts cannot be assured. For example, neither act requires witnesses at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?

Assisted suicide is a concept contrary to public safety and a recipe for elder abuse.  Americans are right to be skeptical of these laws.