Showing posts with label Montana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montana. Show all posts

Saturday, February 16, 2013

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Efforts to legalize assisted suicide may be one cause for high suicide rates

Dec. 4, 2012

Your article, “Cowboy culture’ factor in Montana’s high suicide rate” (Nov. 25-27), discusses possible reasons for that high rate. A reason I did not see discussed is the active and ongoing push to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Montana.

I am a doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. In Oregon, physician-assisted suicide means that a physician facilitates a patient’s suicide by providing a lethal prescription. In Oregon, our law also allows family members to participate in the suicide, for example, by helping with the lethal dose request process and by picking up the lethal dose at the pharmacy. Physician-assisted suicide is sometimes called “aid in dying.“

Oregon’s overall suicide rate, which excludes suicide under our assisted suicide act, is 35 percent above the national average. This rate has been “increasing significantly” since 2000. Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide. This statistical correlation is consistent with a suicide contagion in which the normalization of one type of suicide encouraged other suicides.

In 2011, a bill similar to Oregon’s law was proposed and defeated in the Montana Legislature. I understand that another bill will be proposed this coming legislative session. With this active promotion of physician-assisted suicide, there is the possibility of a normalization process similar to what appears to have taken place in Oregon. If so, this is another factor in Montana’s high rate of suicide.

I hope that you will encourage your legislators to keep assisted suicide out of Montana. Don’t make our mistake.

William L. Toffler,
Professor of family medicine,
Oregon Health & Science University,
National director and board member,
Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation,
Portland, Ore.