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 the Affidavit 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

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Beware of Vultures: The Observations of a Montana State Senator

"[I]t seems odd that the top lobby spender in Montana this year was Compassion and Choices, a “nonprofit” group that spent $160,356 advocating for legalization of assisted suicide." 
By Senator Jennifer Fielder

As we wrangled through the budget this spring, the beautiful state capitol began to feel like a big, ripe carcass with a dark cloud of vultures circling about.  
Senator Jennifer Fielder

The magnitude of money in government attracts far more folks who want to be on the receiving end than it does those who just want fair and functional government. Until that ratio improves, it may be impossible to rein in unnecessary regulation and spending. 

Special interest groups spent over $6 million dollars on lobbyists to pressure Montana legislators during the 2013 session. Seems like a lot of money, until you compare it to the billions of taxpayer dollars at stake. Does the average taxpayer stand a chance against organized forces like that?

As your Senator one of my main duties is to sort out who wants your money, or a change in a law, and why. Getting to the bottom of it takes work. It would certainly help if well-intentioned citizens would do a little more research before clamoring onto any particular bandwagons as well.

We have to be careful not to be fooled by catchy slogans, shallow campaign propaganda, biased media reports, or plays on our emotions which, too often, conceal a multitude of hidden agendas. 

For example, it seems odd that the top lobby spender in Montana this year was Compassion and Choices, a “nonprofit” group that spent $160,356 advocating for legalization of assisted suicide. The second biggest spender was MEA-MFT, the teachers and public employees union who spent $120,319 pushing for state budget increases.

I earned a reputation for asking a lot of questions. I certainly didn’t take this job to rubber stamp anything. It's my duty to determine whether a proposal relates to an essential, necessary service of fair and functional government, or if it is motivated by piles of money to be gained from ill-advised government decisions.

You see, there is so much money in government that almost everything in government is about the money. The usual tactic is to disguise a ploy as “the humane thing to do”. . . . 

Some groups work very hard to provide factual information about their issue. Others stoop to the lowest of lows to invoke heart wrenching emotions, twisted half-truths, or outright lies. You really have to look carefully for all the angles.

Assisted suicide is another issue that can be highly emotional. There are deep and valid concerns on both sides of this life and death debate. But I found myself wondering, “Where does all the lobby money come from?” If it really is about a few terminally ill people who might seek help ending their suffering, why was more money spent on promoting assisted suicide than any other issue in Montana?

Could it be that convincing an ill person to end their life early will help health insurance companies save a bundle on what would have been ongoing medical treatment? How much would the government gain if it stopped paying social security, Medicare, or Medicaid on thousands of people a few months early? How much financial relief would pension systems see? Why was the proposed law to legalize assisted suicide [SB 220] written so loosely? Would vulnerable old people be encouraged to end their life unnecessarily early by those seeking financial gain? 

When considering the financial aspects of assisted suicide, it is clear that millions, maybe billions of dollars, are intertwined with the issue being marketed as “Compassion and Choices”. Beware.

Public issues are not easy, and they are not always about money. But often times they are. If we want fair and functional government, we need to look deeper than most people are willing to look.. . .

* * *
Published as Communication from Your State Senator, "Beware of Vultures," by Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder, Sanders County Ledger, http://www.scledger.net, page 2, 6-4-13. Senator Fielder lives in Thompson Falls MT, representing Montana State Senate District 7.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hawaii Medical Association Rejects Assisted Suicide

Serving Hawaii since 1856, the Hawaii Medical Association (HMA) is a voluntary, professional membership organization for physicians, resident physicians, and medical students in the state of Hawaii. HMA is dedicated to serving physicians, their patients, and the community through representation, advocacy, and public service. HMA is part of the American Medical Association (AMA) and is the parent organization for Hawaii's five component medical societies that operate independently, but in a network with the HMA in all four counties in the State of Hawaii. In the last several decades, medical technology has made tremendous advances in saving and extending lives. As a result, life expectancy has increased dramatically.

The Hawaii Medical Association, along with the American Medical Association, oppose any bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide or death. We believe physician-assisted suicide to be unethical and fundamentally inconsistent with the pledge all physicians take to devote themselves to healing and life.

Christopher D. Flanders, D.O.
Executive Director
Hawaii Medical Association

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Teen Wakes as Doctors Prepare to Harvest Her Organs

Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

There have been several reports in the past few years about people who are being prepared for organ donation, who wake up or shows "signs of life." These stories create a distrust in society concerning the practice of organ donation and it leads to fewer people willing to be organ donors. The abuse of organ donation related to the wish to procure more organs for an endless demand for organ donation may be leading to sloppy evaluations by some physicians, while other physicians consider people who appear to be nearing death as suitable organ donors because they "will die anyway." Read more