Sunday, November 25, 2012

Assisted Suicide not legal in state, needs clarification

November 21, 2012 12:15 am  • 

A recent Associated Press article, which appeared last Friday in most major newspapers in our state, incorrectly stated that Montana is the third state to allow assisted suicide, along with Washington and Oregon.

Attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman did an extensive analysis of the case and concluded it “did not legalize assisted suicide and it continues to carry both criminal and civil liability for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved.”  [Click here to see Jackson/Bowman article]

The Montana Lawyer, the official publication of the Montana State Bar concluded the issue is open to argument, confirming that the Legislature needs to clarify the issue this coming session. [Click here for link to Montana Lawyer article, with this headline:  "The aid-in-dying debate: Can a physician legally help a patient die in Montana? Court ruling still leaves the issue open to argument"]
  As a retired doctor and Montana representative for CMDA, your readership needs to know that there are problems inherent in passing a law that would allow a physician to kill their patient. People need to understand that we are talking about a physician writing a prescription for the express purpose of one taking their own life.

The very oath that physicians take in stepping into this profession states that they “shall do no harm.” Their purpose is to cure, to heal, to provide comfort and care at the end of life, but not to aid in facilitating the end of that life through active means.

Physicians are fallible human beings and often are wrong in their prognosis concerning how long a patient will survive their illness. Often, it is depression that prompts one to think that life if not worth living or perhaps the feeling that because of their illness they are a burden to their family.

The whole matter is a recipe for elder abuse.

This is a topic that requires much more discussion and education concerning what it really entails and what is at stake.

The Montana Medical Association has drafted its position statement, stating that boards (e.g. Montana Medical Examiners Board) should not be making position statements without clear statutory authority.  [To see the Montana Medical Association's position statement, click here]

I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight and hope that you continue to report on this vital topic.

David W. Hafer
Box 300