Monday, December 17, 2012

Time to strengthen assisted suicide law

December 13, 2012, Independent Record

I have several concerns about the practice of assisted suicide, which has been rejected by most states and is currently legal in only two states (Washington and Oregon). 1) The potential for elder abuse is very real. Patients in Oregon with a “terminally ill” diagnosis have been refused treatment and steered toward assisted suicide. Patients can be pressured by a relative, who can even administer the dose. 2) A “terminally ill” diagnosis can be wrong. Some patients recover with treatment and may live a long time. 3) Montana already has a high suicide rate and state policy is directed at lowering that rate. The suicide rate in Oregon has increased since their law was passed.

Please tell your legislators to clarify and strengthen our law against assisted suicide.

Ruth Plesner

Monday, December 10, 2012

Liberal Massachusetts Defeated Assisted Suicide

Support withered for assisted-suicide question

By Chris Camire

In late September, polls showed a ballot initiative that would make physician-assisted suicide legal for terminally ill patients had support from 68 percent of Massachusetts voters.

Over the next month, that support steadily eroded, and on Election Day the measure failed by a razor-thin 51-49 percent margin.

How did a proposal that seemed sure to pass just five weeks before the election come up short?

Joseph Baerlein, president of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, who handled public relations for the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, said the measure's opponents had to convince voters who supported the idea of assisted suicide that the bill before them was flawed.

"We focused our campaign strategy on looking at those weaknesses," said Baerlein.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Recipe for Elder Abuse

December 04, 2012 7:45 am

Brad Williams (letter, Nov. 28) is correct, assisted suicide is not legal in Montana (Associated Press, Nov. 16). The Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, merely gives doctors a potential defense to prosecution for homicide.

In the 2011 legislative session, Sen. Anders Blewett and I introduced competing bills in response to Baxter, neither of which passed. His bill sought to legalize assisted suicide; mine sought to eliminate the defense.

During the hearing on Blewett's bill, he conceded that assisted suicide was not legal under Baxter. He said: "under the current law ... there's nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution."

Similar statements were made by others. For example, Dr. Stephen Speckart testified: "most physicians feel significant disease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision."

To view a transcript, see:

Legal assisted suicide is, regardless, a recipe for elder abuse in which heirs are empowered to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives.

Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. The potential defense to prosecution is, however, a "toe in the door," which could lead to legalization in the future. Tell your legislators that you support reversing the defense to keep assisted suicide out of Montana.

Sen. Greg Hinkle, Thompson Falls

Saturday, December 8, 2012

“Dr. Stevens, you saved my life!”

Doctor helped patient with cancer choose life over assisted suicide
November 27, 2012 6:15
I am a doctor in Oregon, one of two states where assisted suicide is legal. This letter responds to your article about the controversy over this practice in Montana. (AP article re: Medical Examiners Board, Nov. 16). I write to clarify that legalizing assisted suicide would allow 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.

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 wanted “the pills.” She had made up her mind, but she continued to see me.

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!”

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

I understand that assisted suicide will be an issue in your upcoming legislative session. I urge you to encourage your legislators to clarify your law to keep assisted suicide out of Montana.

Kenneth Stevens,
Sherwood, Oregon