Showing posts with label Physician-assisted suicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Physician-assisted suicide. Show all posts

Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Baxter Decision

By Margaret Dore

In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court issued Baxter v. State, which cracked open the door to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Montana.* A local doctor subsequently announced that he was actively killing or assisting to kill his patients. As far as I know, no one did anything to stop him.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia became de facto legal. Some of these deaths were presumably voluntary. In my personal experience from other states, deaths also occur on an involuntary or nonvoluntary basis, for example due to financial concerns. Adult children want the money right away and/or fear that mom or dad will change their wills, leaving the children with nothing.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

SB is 202 Dead.

On February 11, 2015, SB 202, seeking to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, was tabled in committee.  With the close of the legislature, the bill is now dead.

Under the bill, young adults with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, would have been "eligible" for assisted suicide and euthanasia.  The bill, if passed, would have created the following problems:
  • The encouragement of people with years to live to throw away their lives.  
  • The creation of new paths of elder abuse, especially for people with money (in the inheritance context).
  • The empowerment of health care systems to steer patients to suicide, which is documented in Oregon, one of the few states where assisted suicide is legal. 
  • An increase in other "conventional" suicides, including violent suicides by firearms, which is the case in Oregon. 
    To view documentation regarding these problems, and other problems with legalization, please click here for the text; click here for the attachments

    Thank you to everyone for your help to make the defeat of SB 202 possible.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    HB 477 PASSES the House

    Yesterday, HB 477, which overrules Montana's Baxter decision by clarifying that physician-assisted suicide is against public policy and prohibited, passed the House of Representatives.

    Many thanks to our sponsor, Representative Jerry Bennett, for making this happen.

    The next step is the Senate.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Senator Shockley: Position Changed with Evidence

    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

    Jim Shockley,


    Sunday, October 5, 2014

    Assisters Can Have Their Own Agenda,0,1813199.story

    Brad Williams makes a good point about the problems with legalizing assisted suicide, one of them being that people assisting a suicide may have their own agenda ("The perils of assisted suicide," Oct. 2).

    Mr. Williams gives the example of a recent Montana case in which a man is accused of encouraging a teenage girl to kill herself in order to prevent her from testifying against him in a rape trial.

    I am a doctor in Oregon, one of the few states in which physician-assisted suicide is legal. In this context, assisters with an agenda include our state's Medicaid program, which uses coverage incentives to steer patients to suicide.

    The program will pay for a patient's suicide but will not necessarily pay for the patient's treatment to cure a disease or to extend the patient's life.

    In other words, with the legalization of assisted suicide, the "treatment" of suicide is displacing desired treatments to cure or to extend life.

    I first became aware of such issues in 1982, shortly before my first wife died of cancer. We had just visited her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication.

    I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said, "Ken, he wants me to kill myself."

    We must protect our health care system from such abuses. Citizens should tell their legislators and other public officials to say no to assisted-suicide.

    Kenneth Stevens, Sherwood, Ore.

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Montana's Law Protected Me

    I have read the guest column, "People living with disabilities support death with dignity" (July 25), which advocates for legalizing assisted suicide and/or euthanasia for the disabled. I could be described as such a person and this opinion does not speak for me. I am strongly against legalizing these practices.

    When I was in high school, I was on track to get a basketball scholarship to college. And then, I was in a car accident. The accident left me in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic. In addition to my paralysis, I had other difficulties. Over the next two or three years, I gave serious thought to suicide. And I had the means to do it, but both times I got close, I stopped myself.

    If instead, my doctor, an authority figure, had told me that ending my life was a rational course, there might have been a different result. If instead, he had given me a lethal dose to ingest or offered to euthanize me, I might have gone along with it. But assisted suicide and euthanasia were not legal in Montana. Such courses were off the table.

    So, instead, I went to college to seek a degree in education. While in college, I participated in wheelchair racing at the state, national and international levels. I met my husband and 21 years later the honeymoon is not over. We have three beautiful daughters and a new baby granddaughter. I am also active in my community.

    Montana's law protected me and I hope it will stay in place to continue to protect me and others as we go through the sometimes hard times of life.

    Assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be legal.

    Lucinda Hardy, Columbia Falls

    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    Protect your health care; keep assisted suicide out of Montana

    I am a doctor in Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal. I have been following the ongoing attempt to legalize assisted suicide in Montana.

    I was first exposed to this issue in 1982 shortly before my first wife died of cancer. We had just visited her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication. I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.“

    In Oregon, the combination of assisted-suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid). Helpful treatments are often not covered. The plan will cover the patient’s suicide. For more detail, please read my affidavit filed on behalf of the Canadian government at 

    Our assisted suicide law was passed in 1997. In 2000, one of my patients was adamant she would use our law. I stalled her and ultimately convinced her to be treated instead. Nearly 14 years later she is thrilled to be alive.

    Protect your health care, yourselves and your families. I urge you to tell your elected officials to keep assisted suicide out of Montana.

    Kenneth Stevens,
    Sherwood, Ore.

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    "If [Kress] is convicted, it will be under Baxter, not HB505."

    Physician-assisted suicide:  Bill will not be retroactive

    Dr. Eric Kress, who claims to have assisted three suicides, is either uniformed or disingenuous about the legality of assisted suicide as described in his guest column (April 7). The present law, as taken from the Baxter case, is that under certain circumstances a physician who assisted someone to kill himself has a defense to a charge of homicide. If the doctor is charged with homicide and convinces a jury of certain facts, he will not be convicted.
    Kress claims instead that his conduct will be judged under House Bill 505, which if enacted, will clarify the law of assisted suicide in the future. HB505 is not retroactive and will not apply to Kress and his three cases. If he is convicted, it will be under Baxter, not HB505.
    I started out thinking that I was for legalizing physician-assisted suicide and moved to the other side after listening to the evidence. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide will lead to elder abuse. I support HB505, which clearly prohibits physician-assisted suicide.
    Jim Shockley, Attorney at Law, 
    Victor MT

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    MD responds to doctor's opinion piece supporting physician-assisted suicide

    April 26, 2013 12:16 pm  

    I am a general medical practitioner with 30 years’ experience. I work in emergency medicine, with nursing home residents and with incarcerated persons. I have two issues with Dr. Eric Kress's (April 7) opinion describing his assistance of three suicides. First, since when did assisted suicide become legal? Second, I have concerns about the cases he describes.

    Kress claims that his patients were not depressed. His description of one of those patients, however, suggests otherwise. Someone who is "often … found weeping and bemoaning the miserable fated that had befallen him" sounds depressed and unrecognized and untreated. And, someone who is "experiencing increasing pain in his chest…" may have needed different medications. There is essentially no pain that cannot be treated, though a secondary effect may be to hasten death. I do not know the medical facts of these cases; I do know that there were other options than committing suicide, whether or not they were explored.

    Doctors’ diagnoses can also be wrong. I have seen patients in my own practice live longer than expected. With this situation, patients participating in medical suicides can be throwing away their lives. I have also seen suicidal people get better, and rebuild lives that looked pretty grim. I do not agree that doctors or anyone else should be assisting other people to commit suicide.

    Carley C. Robertson, MD,

    Oregon resident would not be alive today if she had used physician-assisted suicide

    This letter responds to the (April 7) guest column by Dr. Eric Kress promoting assisted suicide. If Kress had been my doctor in 2000, I would be dead.

    I live in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. In 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer and told that I had six months to a year to live. I knew that our law had passed, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it. I tried to ask my doctor, but he didn’t really answer me.

    I did not want to suffer. I wanted to do our law and I wanted my doctor to help me. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. It is now 12 years later. I am so happy to be alive!

    Last month, doctors in Montana contacted me to let them use my story to promote House Bill 505, which is a bill to prevent assisted suicide in Montana. This is a link to their recent press release:

    Vote “yes” on HB505.

    Don’t make Oregon’s mistake.

    Jeanette Hall,
    King City, Ore.

    Friday, March 29, 2013

    Physician-Assisted Suicide Part of Elder Abuse Fraud

    On March 26, 2013, Philip Tummarello, a retired police Sergeant Inspector, testified before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee on on behalf of HB 505.  His testimony included the Thomas Middleton case in which physician-assisted suicide had facilitated the defrauding of an elderly man.  An article from states: 
    "State and court documents show Middleton, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, moved into Sawyer's home in July 2008, months after naming her trustee of his estate, The Bulletin reported Saturday.  Middleton deeded his home to the trust and directed her to make it a rental until the real estate market improved.
    Instead, Sawyer signed documents that month to list the property for sale, two days after Middleton died by physician-assisted suicide.  The property sold in October of that year for more than $200,000, the documents show, and it was deposited into an account for one of Sawyer's businesses, Starboard LLC, and $90,000 of that was transferred to two other Sawyer companies, Genesis Futures and Tami Sawyer PC."  (Emphasis added).

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Why Do So Many Disability Groups Oppose Physician Assisted Suicide?

    by:  James D. McGaughey, Executive Director,
    Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. 
    (Adapted from an article that originally appeared in the
    International Social Role Valorization Journal in 2010.)

    In 2009, a proposal that would have legalized Physician Assisted Suicide was introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly.  The language of that proposal paralleled legislation being pursued in other states by Compassion and Choices, a successor organization to the Hemlock Society.  When the proposal was withdrawn without a public hearing, Compassion and Choices moved to the Courts, seeking a judicial ruling that provisions of the Connecticut Statutes prohibiting assisting a person to commit suicide should not be applied to physicians who write lethal prescriptions for their patients.  Their lawsuit was dismissed.  Now, in 2013, it appears that another attempt to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide is being made in Connecticut.  While the details of the current proposals are unavailable as of this writing, they will likely be similar to proposals that are being pursued in other states – proposals that have drawn stiff opposition from disability advocates in those states.
    Proponents of legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide argue that it’s all about compassion and personal autonomy.  Citing examples of individuals who have ended, or who apparently want to end their lives by taking lethal doses of prescribed drugs, they propose adoption of the euphemistic term “assistance with dying”, and suggest Physician Assisted Suicide be seen as a compassionate alternative to suffering intractable pain or endless, intrusive, de-dignifying medical interventions.  If all we hear is their side of the story it seems reasonable enough.  After all, shouldn’t we have the option of avoiding an ignoble end?  Shouldn’t our doctors be able to prescribe drugs that will do the job quietly and professionally?  Isn’t this a matter of personal choice? What’s wrong with just having the option?  

    Leading disability rights groups see plenty of problems with it. A number of well respected organizations, including the National Council on Disability, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the World Institute on Disability, Justice For All, TASH (formerly called The Association of the Severely Handicapped), the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and grass roots groups such as ADAPT and Not Dead Yet have all adopted positions opposing legalization of assisted suicide.  In fact, members of many of these groups have been teaming up with local independent living centers and state-level advocacy coalitions to challenge the state-by state campaign to promote Physician Assisted Suicide.

    Saturday, March 16, 2013

    " I support House Bill 505, which clearly states that assisted suicide is not legal"

    My husband, Dr. James E. Mungas, was a respected physician and surgeon here in Great Falls. He developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and I took care of him. His mind was clear and thought processes unimpaired. He was against assisted suicide and euthanasia.

    I needed to travel out of town for a day and a half. We agreed he would stay at a local care facility in my absence. Once there, nurses began administering morphine. After the first dose, my husband knew that he had been overdosed and typed out a message to call respiratory therapy. None came that day. Over the next few days, he struggled to breathe and desperately struggled to remain conscious to communicate, but the nurses kept pushing the morphine button and advised our children to do the same. My children and I did not understand the extent morphine would repress the respiratory system until later.  This was neither palliative care nor managing pain; this was hastening death. He was effectively euthanized against his will. He did not get his choice. It is traumatic, still, to realize his last communications were attempts to get help.

    As illustrated by my husband's case, doctors and nurses already misuse or abuse the power they have. The stakes are too high to consider expanding their power by legalizing assisted-suicide. The recent guest column by Dr. Stephen Speckart and other doctors claims that assisted suicide is already legal. For that reason, I support House Bill 505, which clearly states that assisted suicide is not legal.

    — Carol Mungas,
    Great Falls

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Possible expansion of physician-assisted suicide laws in other states should concern Montana

    I am doctor in Washington state where physician-assisted suicide is legal for “terminal patients” predicted to have less than six months to live. I disagree with the letter by Kristen Wood (letter, Feb. 28) that expansion is not a concern in this context.

    In Washington state, our assisted suicide law has only been in effect for four years. We have, however, already had proposals to expand that law to direct euthanasia of non-terminal people. See e.g., Brian Faller, “Perhaps it’s time to expand Washington’s Death with Dignity Act,” Nov. 16, 2011. Last year, there was also this article in the Seattle Times, suggesting euthanasia for people who cannot afford their own care, which would be involuntary euthanasia: Jerry Large, “Planning for old age at a premium,” 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.“)

    I am very concerned with where this is all going. I hope that Montana does not follow our lead to legalize assisted suicide.

    Richard Wonderly,
    Seattle, Washington

    Saturday, March 9, 2013

    "He made the mistake of asking for information about assisted suicide"

    Last year, my 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. I 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 me and a friend to not leave him alone with her. Justified or not, Wes was afraid that the doctor would do something to him or have him sign something if she would find him alone.

    In fact, even though he was on heavy doses of narcotic pain medications and not in a clear state of mind to sign documents without someone to advocate for him, this palliative care MD actually did try to get him to sign a DNR or “Do Not Resuscitate” form without his Durable POA or any family member present. Fortunately, his close friend/POA arrived at that moment to stop this from happening. Some of the other doctors and staff members seemed to also write Wes off once they learned that he had asked about assisted suicide.

    I am writing to urge your readers to prevent assisted suicide in Montana. I do this on behalf of myself and my other brother, Ron Olfert, of Sanders County, who also died last year. He was strongly opposed to assisted suicide.

    Please contact your legislators and ask them to vote “yes” on House Bill 505.

    Marlene Deakins, RN
    Tuscon, Arizona

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    The "Oregon Experience" Includes Murder-Suicide

    Increased Suicide

    Oregon’s overall suicide rate, which excludes suicide under Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide act, is 35% above the national average.  Moreover, this rate has been “increasing significantly since 2000.”  See  Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide.  Other suicides have thus increased with legalization of physician-assisted suicide.  This is consistent with a copy cat or suicide contagion phenomenon (normalizing one type of suicide, i.e., physician assisted suicide, encouraged other suicides).

    Violent Death

    In Oregon, many suicide deaths are violent.  For 2007, “[f]irearms were the dominant mechanism of suicide among men.”  This is according to an Oregon Department of Human Services report issued in September 2010.  See excerpts here: 


    In Oregon, murder-suicides "follow the national pattern."

    The Wife Would Still be a Victim

    According to  Donna Cohen, the typical murder-suicide case involves a depressed controlling husband who shoots his ill wife:  “The wife does not want to die and is often shot in her sleep.  If she was awake at the time, there are usually signs that she tried to defend herself.”   See WebMD,  "Murder-Suicides in Elderly Rise: Husbands commit most murder suicides–without wives’ consent," January 30, 2005,

    If physician assisted suicide were legal in Montana, the wife, not wanting to die, would still be a victim. 

    "Because of my mother's experiences, I no longer believe in "physician-assisted suicide." Support House Bill 505."

    Family member's 'accidental' death provides example for opposition to assisted suicide 

    This letter is being written for a right to live.  We taxpayers paid a phenomenal amount of money when others decided it was time for my mother to die.  She would not die!  Three times she defied attempts on her life, costing her bed sores, hospice and her daughter being arrested while helping her (the latter arrest record was dismissed).

    Mom succumbed in the hospital on Sept. 6, 2010.  The coroner's report case No. 100906 lists congestive heart failure with oxygen deprivation and fentanyl therapy.  The manner of death: accident.

    Fentanyl is reported "to be 80 to 200 times as potent as morphine."  A fentanyl patch of 100 mcg/hour has a range within 24 hours of 1.9-3.8ng/mL. Mom's death result was 2.7 ng/mL on or about 48 hours.

    Complaint No. 2012-069-MED was filed with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry Board of Medical Examiners. The screening panel voted to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, which means the board may not consider the complaint in the future.

    Because of my mother's experiences, I no longer believe in "physician-assisted suicide."  Support House Bill 505.

    Gail Bell,

    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

    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.