Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Legalizing assisted suicide results in causing non-dying persons to be steered to suicide" - Support HB 505

Dear Members of the Montana State Senate Judiciary Committee,

I am writing in support of HB 505, which would clarify that physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.

I am a doctor in Oregon, one of two states where assisted-suicide is legal. My personal experience in Oregon has shown me that legalizing assisted suicide results in causing non-dying persons to be steered to suicide.

Oregon’s assisted-suicide law applies to patients predicted to have less than six months to live. In 2000, I had a cancer patient named Jeanette Hall. Another doctor had given her a terminal diagnosis of six months to a year to live. This was based on her not being treated for cancer.

At our first meeting, Jeanette told me that she did not want to be treated, and that she wanted to opt for what our law allowed – to kill herself with a lethal dose of barbiturates.  She informed me that she had voted for assisted suicide, and that is what she wanted. 

I did not and do not believe in assisted suicide. I informed her that her cancer was treatable and that her prospects were good. But she told me she didn't want the treatment, she wanted “the pills.” She had made up her mind, but she continued to see me weekly.  On the third or fourth visit, I asked her about her family and learned that she had a son. I asked her how he would feel if she went through with her plan. Shortly after that, she agreed to be treated, and her cancer was cured.

Five years later she saw me in a restaurant and said, “Dr. Stevens, you saved my life!”  She realized that if I had believed in assisted suicide, that she would not have enjoyed her past 5 years.  She is now alive and enjoying life over 12 years since her cancer diagnosis and successful treatment.

For her, the mere presence of legal assisted suicide had steered her to suicide.

I understand that you will be considering HB 505 next week.  I encourage you to be aware of the dangers of assisted suicide, and that you will do your part to keep it out of Montana.  Please vote yes on HB 505.


Kenneth Stevens, MD,
Professor Emeritus, Radiation Oncology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon