Saturday, February 23, 2013


On Thursday, February 20, 2013, HB 505 was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee!  

The vote to pass was 12 to 8!  

Our next step is to pass out of the House.  The vote on the floor will most likely occur next week. 

HB 505 is a short and simple bill that clarifies the offense of aiding or soliciting suicide.  The bill’s other purpose is to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide in Montana.  To view a copy of the bill click here.  For more detailed information, click here.

HB 505 is consistent with Montana's civil law in which persons who cause or fail to prevent another person’s suicide can be found civilly liable.[1]  This is typically in a hospital or jail setting.[2]

HB 505 is needed now because the former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, is falsely and aggressively claiming that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  Indeed, C & C refers to Montana as the “third state” along with Oregon and Washington.

A lie or half truth repeated enough times becomes the truth.

With a yes vote on HB 505, the law will be clear that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.  There will be a clear tool for law enforcement and other interested parties to stop the propaganda.  There will be a clear means to protect Montana citizens, especially the elderly. 

Please tell your legislators to vote Yes!  


 [1]  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).
[2]  Id.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WE WON! SB 220 Defeated and Tabled

A big thanks to everyone who worked so hard to defeat SB 220, which had sought to legalize Oregon-style assisted suicide in Montana!

Yesterday, February 13, 2013, the bill was defeated and then tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee's executive session.  

The vote to defeat SB 220 was 7 to 5.

The vote to table the bill was 9 to 3.

Way to go!!!!


For a legal and policy analysis of the defeated bill, see this link:
* *  To view the bill's information page, go here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

SB 220 Talking Points (Tell your legislators to vote no!)

For more detailed information with supporting documentation, click  here

1.  What does SB 220 do? 

SB 220 seeks to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Montana.

2.  What is physician-assisted suicide?

The American Medical Association (AMA) defines physician-assisted suicide as occurring "when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act."[1]  An example would be a doctor’s prescription for a lethal drug to facilitate a patient’s suicide.[2]

3.  What is the American Medical Association's position on physician-assisted suicide?

The American Medical Association rejects assisted suicide, stating:

"Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks."[3]

4.  Is it true that assisted suicide is only legal in two states?

Yes.  There are just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.[4]

5.  Are there also states that have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide?

Yes.  In the last two years, three states have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide.[5]. Those states are: Idaho; Georgia; and Louisiana.[6]

6.  How does SB 220 work?

SB 220 has an application process to obtain the lethal dose, which includes a written lethal dose request form.[7]

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight.[8] The death is not required to be witnessed by disinterested persons.[9] Indeed, no one is required to be present.[10]

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tell your legislators to VOTE NO on SB 220!

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

SB 220 seeks to legalize Oregon-style assisted suicide in Montana.  

To read a legal analysis of SB 220, click here.  To read the attachments to that analysis, click here.

The introduction to the analysis states:

This memo discusses why the claim that SB 220 will assure patient control is untrue. SB 220 is instead a recipe for elder abuse. The bill puts the elderly in the crosshairs of their heirs and abusive family members.

SB 220 also eliminates safeguards such as waiting periods that supposedly render the Oregon and Washington laws safe.  Doctor reporting is also eliminated.

The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, claims that this is because Oregon’s reporting system has "demonstrated the safety of the practice."  To the contrary, Oregon’s reports support that the claimed safety is speculative. The reported statistics are also consistent with elder abuse. No wonder Compassion & Choices wants the reporting system gone.

To contact your legislators, go here: