Thursday, February 28, 2013




Wednesday, February 27, 2013


HB 505 just passed second reading in the Montana House of Representatives!

The Vote was 54 to 45!

Way to go!!!!!

HB 505: The Opposition Spews Misinformation

For a print version, click here.
By Margaret Dore, Esq.*

A.  Factual Context

House Bill 505 clarifies the offense of aiding or soliciting suicide. The bill’s other purpose is to prevent the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. 

In the two states where assisted suicide is legal, Oregon and Washington, problems have emerged, including that: (1) people with years to live are encouraged to throw away their lives; (2) new paths of elder abuse have been created; and (3) steerage to suicide by the Oregon government health plan has been documented and is ongoing.[1] 

B.  The Misinformation Campaign

Suicide proponents, apparently to deflect attention away from these problems, have embarked on a misinformation campaign, which is discussed and responded to below.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jeff Golin Against Assisted Suicide

We are California Democrats and we are terrified of assisted suicide laws.  We have a severely disabled daughter who is in the institutional care of the State of California.

Given the long and notorious history of euthanasia, we are hoping you will approve HB 505 to put an end to the deceptions about this "cause."  We believe this is necessary to discourage assisted suicide from coming here to California, if it is not stopped in Montana.  We don't believe there are any effective safeguards against its possible abuses.

In our case personally, we fear physician assisted suicide could be sold here in Califolrnia as a means to prematurely terminate difficult disability cases like our daughters', to supposedly save money for relatives and caregivers, even while it is made to appear as a "choice."

Please vote "YES" on HB 505.

Jeffrey R. Golin

Oregon Lawyer: "Without transparency, our law is not safe."

Dear Montana Representative:

 I understand that HB 505 will strengthen Montana law against assisting suicide, including physician-assisted suicide.  For that reason I write in support of that bill.

I am a lawyer in Oregon who specializes in injury claims, including wrongful death cases. I write to inform you that our law lacks transparency and that even law enforcement is denied access to information collected by the state. Moreover, this is official state policy.

In 2010, I was retained by a client whose father had died under our assisted-suicide act. Unlike other deaths I have investigated, it was difficult to get basic information.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


On Thursday, February 20, 2013, HB 505 was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee!  

The vote to pass was 12 to 8!  

Our next step is to pass out of the House.  The vote on the floor will most likely occur next week. 

HB 505 is a short and simple bill that clarifies the offense of aiding or soliciting suicide.  The bill’s other purpose is to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide in Montana.  To view a copy of the bill click here.  For more detailed information, click here.

HB 505 is consistent with Montana's civil law in which persons who cause or fail to prevent another person’s suicide can be found civilly liable.[1]  This is typically in a hospital or jail setting.[2]

HB 505 is needed now because the former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, is falsely and aggressively claiming that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  Indeed, C & C refers to Montana as the “third state” along with Oregon and Washington.

A lie or half truth repeated enough times becomes the truth.

With a yes vote on HB 505, the law will be clear that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.  There will be a clear tool for law enforcement and other interested parties to stop the propaganda.  There will be a clear means to protect Montana citizens, especially the elderly. 

Please tell your legislators to vote Yes!  


 [1]  See Krieg v. Massey, 239 Mont. 469, 472-3 (1989) and Nelson v. Driscoll, 295 Mont. 363, Para 32-33 (1999).  Other cases include Edwards v. Tardif, 240 Conn. 610, 692 A.2d 1266 (1997) (affirming a civil judgment against a physician who had prescribed an ”excessively large dosage” of barbiturates to a suicidal patient who then killed herself with the barbiturates).
[2]  Id.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Oregon doctor could not save patient from assisted suicide

I am a doctor in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. A few years ago, I was caring for a 76-year-old man who presented to my office a sore on his arm, eventually diagnosed as melanoma. I referred him to specialists for evaluation and therapy.

I had known this patient and his wife for more than a decade. He was an avid hiker, a popular hobby here in Oregon. As his disease progressed, he was less able to do this activity, becoming depressed, which was documented in his chart.

During this time, my patient expressed a wish for assisted suicide to one of the specialists. Rather than take the time to address his depression, or ask me as his primary care physician to talk with him, she called me and asked me to be the “second opinion” for his suicide. She told me that barbiturate overdoses “work very well” for patients like this, and that she had done this many times before.

I told her that assisted suicide was not appropriate for this patient and that I did not concur. I was very concerned about my patient’s mental state, and told her that addressing his underlying issues would be better than simply giving him a lethal prescription. Unfortunately, my concerns were ignored, and two weeks later my depressed patient was dead from an overdose prescribed by this doctor.

Under Oregon’s law, I was not able to protect my depressed patient. If assisted suicide becomes legal in Montana, you may not be able to protect your friends or family members.

I urge you to contact your legislators to tell them to keep assisted suicide out of Montana. Don’t make Oregon’s mistake.

Dr. Charles J. Bentz
Portland, Ore.

Assisted Suicide: Stress, Trauma and Fear

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

In 2012, a study was released in Switzerland, addressing trauma suffered by persons who witnessed an assisted suicide.[1]  The study found that 1 out of 5 family members or friends present at an assisted suicide were traumatized.[2]  These persons "experienced full or sub-threshold PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] related to the loss of a close person through assisted suicide."[3]

Consider also the letter below by nurse Marlene Deakins, and her brother, Ron Olfert, now deceased from Sanders County.  Their letter describes the "unnecessary stress" and "fear" of their brother, Wes Olfert, after he asked a question about assisted suicide in Washington State.  Their letter states:

"Our brother, Wes Olfert, . . . died in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. When he was first admitted to the hospital, he made the mistake of asking for information about assisted suicide.  We say a mistake, because this set off a chain of events that interfered with his care and caused him unnecessary stress in what turned out to be the last months of his life.

By asking the question, he was given a 'palliative care' consult by a doctor who heavily and continually pressured him to give up on treatment before he was ready to do so. It got so bad that Wes actually became fearful of this doctor and asked us and a friend to not leave him alone with her."[4]

Kathryn Judson, in Oregon, similarly, became afraid for her husband. This was after his doctor gave him an unsolicited pitch for suicide. She states:

"We got a different doctor, and David lived another five years or so. But after that nightmare in the first doctor's office, and encounters with a 'death with dignity' inclined nurse, I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses, for fear they'd morph from care providers to enemies, with no one around to stop them."[5]


[1]  "Death by request in Switzerland: Posttraumatic stress disorder and complicated grief after witnessing assisted suicide," B. Wagner, J. Muller, A. Maercker; European Psychiatry 27 (2012) 542-546, available at 
[2]  Id.
[3]  Id.
[4]  Ron Olfert and Marlene Deakins RN, Letter to the Board of Medical Examiners, "He made the mistake of asking for information about assisted suicide," June 29, 2012, available at  (Accuracy confirmed by Margaret Dore, the writer of this post, who spoke with both Ron Olfert and Marlene Deakins).
[5]  Kathryn Judson, "I was afraid to leave my husband alone," Hawaii Free Press, February 15, 2011, available at

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WE WON! SB 220 Defeated and Tabled

A big thanks to everyone who worked so hard to defeat SB 220, which had sought to legalize Oregon-style assisted suicide in Montana!

Yesterday, February 13, 2013, the bill was defeated and then tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee's executive session.  

The vote to defeat SB 220 was 7 to 5.

The vote to table the bill was 9 to 3.

Way to go!!!!


For a legal and policy analysis of the defeated bill, see this link:
* *  To view the bill's information page, go here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

SB 220 Talking Points (Tell your legislators to vote no!)

For more detailed information with supporting documentation, click  here

1.  What does SB 220 do? 

SB 220 seeks to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Montana.

2.  What is physician-assisted suicide?

The American Medical Association (AMA) defines physician-assisted suicide as occurring "when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act."[1]  An example would be a doctor’s prescription for a lethal drug to facilitate a patient’s suicide.[2]

3.  What is the American Medical Association's position on physician-assisted suicide?

The American Medical Association rejects assisted suicide, stating:

"Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks."[3]

4.  Is it true that assisted suicide is only legal in two states?

Yes.  There are just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.[4]

5.  Are there also states that have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide?

Yes.  In the last two years, three states have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide.[5]. Those states are: Idaho; Georgia; and Louisiana.[6]

6.  How does SB 220 work?

SB 220 has an application process to obtain the lethal dose, which includes a written lethal dose request form.[7]

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight.[8] The death is not required to be witnessed by disinterested persons.[9] Indeed, no one is required to be present.[10]

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tell your legislators to VOTE NO on SB 220!

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

SB 220 seeks to legalize Oregon-style assisted suicide in Montana.  

To read a legal analysis of SB 220, click here.  To read the attachments to that analysis, click here.

The introduction to the analysis states:

This memo discusses why the claim that SB 220 will assure patient control is untrue. SB 220 is instead a recipe for elder abuse. The bill puts the elderly in the crosshairs of their heirs and abusive family members.

SB 220 also eliminates safeguards such as waiting periods that supposedly render the Oregon and Washington laws safe.  Doctor reporting is also eliminated.

The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, claims that this is because Oregon’s reporting system has "demonstrated the safety of the practice."  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 contact your legislators, go here:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reject Assisted Suicide

As a physician in Oregon where doctor-assisted suicide is legal, I write to urge your readers to contact their legislators to reject assisted-suicide in Montana.

One of my first requests for assisted-suicide came from a man with multiple sclerosis. He was wheelchair dependent with multiple sclerosis yet lived a very active life. While I was seeing him, I asked him about his disease. He acknowledged it was a major challenge and told me that if he got too much worse, he might want to “just end it.” “It sounds like you are telling me this because you might ultimately want assistance with your own suicide if things got worse,” I said. He nodded affirmatively, and seemed relieved that I seemed to really understand.

I told him that no matter how debilitated he might become, that, at least to me, his life was, and would always be, inherently valuable. As such, I would not recommend, nor could I participate in his assisted-suicide. He simply said, “Thank you.”

Unfortunately, in Oregon, people are often instead told that they are right to want to die – that their lives have no value. I urge you to not let this tragedy be repeated in Montana.

William L. Toffler MD
Portland, Ore.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quick Facts About Assisted Suicide

By Margaret Dore, Esq.*

For a new print version, suitable for a handout, click here.

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]  No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature despite more than 100 attempts.[4]

3.  Patients are Not Necessarily Dying

The Oregon and Washington laws are restricted to patients 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] She is still alive 12 years later.[9]

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 his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?

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 steered them to suicide by offering to pay for their suicides.[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]

6. Suicide Contagion

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 other words, legalizing one type of suicide encouraged other suicides.  Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.[19]

7.  A "Wedge" Issue

In Washington State, where assisted suicide was legalized four years ago, there is already a discussion to expand its law to direct euthanasia for non-terminal people.[20]  Indeed, last March, there was a Seattle Times newspaper column describing reader suggestions for euthanasia for people unable to afford care, which would be involuntary euthanasia.[21]

* 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 and 

[1]  Compare: American Medical Association, Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211, available at
[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 at
[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 at 
[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 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 at ).
[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, at; "Letter noting assisted suicide raises questions," KATU TV, July 30, 2008, at ; 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:
[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 at 
[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 at
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 at
[19]  Cindy Uken, "State of Dispair: High-Country Crisis, Montana’s suicide rate leads the nation," Billings Gazetter, November 25, 2012,
[20]  See Brian Faller, "Perhaps it's time to expand Washington's Death with Dignity Act, The Olympian, November 16, 2011, available at
[21]  See Jerry Large, "Planning for old age at a premium," The Seattle Times, March 8, 2012 at ("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).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Physician-assisted suicide: Permission is recipe for abuse

January 30, 2013 8:30 am
In the 2011 legislative session, Sen. Anders Blewett and I introduced competing bills in response to the Montana Supreme Court’s assisted-suicide case, Baxter v. State. The case did not legalize assisted-suicide. Its language was, however, a “toe in the door,” which could lead to legalization in the future.

Neither bill passed. His bill had sought to legalize assisted-suicide; mine had sought to reverse Baxter. This legislative session, there will likely be a similar contest.

The vast majority of states to consider assisted suicide have rejected it. In the past two years, three states have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide: Georgia, Louisiana and Idaho. Only two states allow it, Oregon and Washington. Their laws were enacted by initiative campaigns.

No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature despite more than 100 attempts.

Legal assisted suicide is, regardless, a recipe for elder abuse in which heirs are empowered to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. I urge you to tell your legislators that you support legislation to close on the door on assisted suicide in Montana.

To learn more, see this website:

Greg Hinkle, Thompson Falls