Monday, December 31, 2012

"Assisted suicide in Washington and Oregon is a recipe for elder abuse and cloaked in secrecy"

By, Margaret Dore, Esq.
Supporting documentation follows letter, below.

I disagree with Susan Hancock’s description of how the Washington and Oregon assisted suicide laws work.   (Dec. 20, guest column)  I disagree that assisted suicide cannot be forced upon an unwilling person.

The Oregon and Washington assisted suicide acts have a formal application process. The acts allow an heir, who will benefit from the patient’s death, to actively participate in this process.

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight. For example, there is no witness required at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for an heir, or for another person who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. One method would be by injection when the patient is sleeping. The drugs used in Oregon and Washington are water soluble and therefore injectable. If the patient woke up and struggled, who would know?

The Washington and Oregon acts require the state health departments to collect statistical information for the purpose of annual reports. According to these reports, users of assisted-suicide are overwhelmingly white and generally well-educated. Many have private insurance. Most are age 65 and older. Typically persons with these attributes are seniors with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately at risk of financial abuse and exploitation.

The forms used to collect the statistical information do not ask about abuse. Moreover, not even law enforcement is allowed to access information about a particular case. Alicia Parkman a mortality research analyst at the Center for Health Statistics, Oregon Health Authority, wrote me: “We have been contacted by law enforcement and legal representatives in the past, but have not provided identifying information of any type.“

Assisted suicide in Washington and Oregon is a recipe for elder abuse and cloaked in secrecy. Don’t make our mistake.

Supporting documentation below.

Margaret Dore, Esq.
Seattle, Wash.

Friday, December 21, 2012

MAAS files New Lawsuit Against Board

On Monday, December 17, 2012, MAAS filed a new lawsuit against the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.

The lawsuit is a response to the Board's order entered on November 16, 2012 refusing to vacate Position Statement No. 20.   The lawsuit's claims include that the statement is invalid because it was adopted "without statutory authorization, . . . outside the Board's subject matter jurisdiction and/or because it is an infringement on the role of the Legislature." 

The petition for the lawsuit can be viewed by clicking here.  The attachments to that petition can be viewed by clicking here and here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gazette opinion: Time to update Montana elder abuse law

The Montana Elder and Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act was intended to protect especially vulnerable citizens. But the statute isn’t used as often as it should be in criminal cases.

"Compassion & Choices is a successor organization to the Hemlock Society"


I am a lawyer in Washington State where assisted-suicide is legal. 

Your readers should know that Compassion & Choices is a successor organization to the Hemlock Society, originally formed by Derek Humphry. In 2011, Humphry was the keynote speaker at Compassion & Choices’ annual meeting here in Washington State. In 2011, he was also in the news as a promoter of mail-order suicide kits from a company now shut down by the FBI. This was after a 29 year old man used one of the kits to commit suicide.

In 2007, Compassion & Choices was a plaintiff in Montana’s assisted-suicide case. Compassion & Choices requested legalization of assisted-suicide for “terminally ill adult patients.” The definition of this phrase was broad enough to include an otherwise healthy 18 year old who is insulin dependent or a young adult with stable HIV/AIDS. Such persons can live for decades with appropriate medical treatment.

Once someone is labeled “terminal,” an easy justification can be made that their treatment should be denied in favor of someone more deserving. Those who believe that legalizing assisted-suicide will promote free choice may discover that it does anything but.

Supporting authority not included in the published letter, below:

1.  This is a link to Compassion & Choices' newsletter announcing that Humphry would be the keynote speaker at its annual meeting in Washington State on October 22, 2012:

2.  This is an excerpt from Oregon's Register-Guard newspaper:
"A spotlight was cast on the mail-order suicide kit business after a 29-year-old Eugene man committed suicide in December using a helium hood kit.  The Register-Guard traced the $60 kit to [the company, which] has no website and does no advertising; clients find [the] address through the writings of Humphry."

3.  Here is a link to my opinion letter with Richard Wonderly MD  analyzing Compassion & Choices' definition of "terminally ill adult patient."