Monday, November 26, 2012

A Recipe for Elder Abuse

Dear Editor:

I agree with the (Nov. 21) letter by Dr. David Hafer, that legal assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse.

I am a physician with a high percentage of older patients. I have had the painful misfortune of personally observing countless instances of elder abuse. The motive is usually financial gain.

Legalization of assisted suicide will give perpetrators yet another weapon. This is especially a concern because assisted-suicide proponents have targeted our state. I fear for my patients.

Annie Bukacek, Kalispell

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Assisted suicide a bad proposition

Letter to the Editor:

November 23, 2012 12:00 am
I have been following assisted suicide issues in various states for several years. Who could have ever imagined that a free society would come to this?

Last year, many of us attended a meeting where we heard from lawyers and doctors from Washington and Oregon speak out about assisted suicide in their states. Their true accounts of elder abuse, suicide parties, fraud, theft, legal wrangling and what can only be called murder were very unsettling.

I sat there stunned and sick inside, thinking of all the misdeeds that had been done under the guise of mercy.

Friends, do we want to bring this type of debacle to our great state? I think not. Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana — though some would like us to think otherwise. Let us work together and take steps to keep it out. As a member of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, I ask you to join us in our opposition to this barbaric practice. Many vulnerable folks are counting on us to get this one right.

Mrs. Garnett Rope


Assisted Suicide not legal in state, needs clarification

November 21, 2012 12:15 am  • 

A recent Associated Press article, which appeared last Friday in most major newspapers in our state, incorrectly stated that Montana is the third state to allow assisted suicide, along with Washington and Oregon.

Attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman did an extensive analysis of the case and concluded it “did not legalize assisted suicide and it continues to carry both criminal and civil liability for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved.”  [Click here to see Jackson/Bowman article]

The Montana Lawyer, the official publication of the Montana State Bar concluded the issue is open to argument, confirming that the Legislature needs to clarify the issue this coming session. [Click here for link to Montana Lawyer article, with this headline:  "The aid-in-dying debate: Can a physician legally help a patient die in Montana? Court ruling still leaves the issue open to argument"]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Assisted Suicide is Not Legal in Montana

This letter, by attorney Craig Charlton, responds to a prior letter claiming that assisted suicide is legal.  Mr. Charlton, attorney for Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, states:

Dear Physician . . . 

You may have received a letter from Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, dated June 5, 2012. The letter claims that assisted suicide, referred to as "aid in dying," is legal under the Baxter decision issued by the Montana Supreme Court on December 31, 2009. This is untrue. I urge you to read the materials below or contact your own counsel for advice regarding the court's decision in Baxter.

The letter states: "Physicians can provide prescriptions to such patients without fear that doing so could give rise to criminal or disciplinary sanction." This statement is contrary to Baxter, which merely gives doctors a defense to prosecution. Baxter states:

"We therefore hold that under § 45-2-211, MCA, a terminally ill patient's consent to physician aid in dying constitutes a statutory defense to a charge of homicide against the aiding physician when no other consent exceptions apply."[1]

You may also be interested in this analysis of Baxter by attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman:

"[T]he Court's narrow decision didn't even ‘legalize’ assisted suicide. . . . After Baxter, assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."[2]

Please note that [Compassion & Choices'] "aid in dying" letter omits any discussion of a doctor’s potential civil liability for wrongful death and/or malpractice.  Baxter did not overrule Montana case law imposing civil liability on doctors who cause or fail to prevent a suicide. 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).

For another example, see William Dotinga, "Grim Complaint Against Kaiser Hospital," at http ://  This case is relevant to Baxter given that patient consent is the linchpin to Baxter's defense to prosecution. Moreover, even if a doctor avoids prosecution, there is civil liability. . . .

Letter from Craig Charlton to Montana Physicians, dated June 20, 2012.  To see a print copy of the entire letter, click here.   

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[1]  Baxter v. Montana, 354 Mont. 234, para. 50, 224 P.3d 1211 (2009).
[2]  To see the entire Jackson/Bowman analysis, go here: