October 24, 2014 6:30 am
I am a former legislator and a lawyer who at one
time favored permitting physician-assisted suicide, but changed my position
after looking at the evidence.
William Clarke is wrong about the legality
of assisted suicide, and his definition of suicide, as described in his
letter of Oct. 15. Physician-assisted suicide is against the law in Montana
and killing oneself is suicide regardless of your health.
The present law
is the Baxter case, which says that under certain circumstances a physician who
assisted someone to kill herself/himself has a defense to a charge of homicide.
It is a defense if the doctor is charged with homicide, that does not make it
legal. If the doctor is charged with homicide and can convince a jury of certain
facts, he or she will not be convicted. If the doctor fails to do so, he or she is convicted of a
felony. Of course, there is the civil liability of the doctor, which is not
addressed at all by Clarke.
Legalizing physician-assisted suicide will
lead to elder abuse and other problems. The American Medical Association is against
physician-assisted suicide for the same reason I am. It will lead to abuse of
the elderly and others who are infirm, mentally or physically, but not really
“terminally ill.” As an example, the much-touted
Oregon law allows ordinary diabetes to be considered a terminally ill disease