Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pass HB 505 - Rick Blevins, MD

The Montana Legislature is considering the question of physician-assisted suicide. The Senate has rejected an Oregon-style bill that would have legalized such a practice. The House has passed House Bill 505, which will end the confusion about assisted suicide in Montana. I am in favor of this bill and wish to clarify misconceptions expressed in a Viewpoint article published March 4.

HB 505 seeks to clarify the relevant law, which has been misinterpreted as a result of the Montana Supreme Court Baxter decision of 2009. This decision did not legalize physician assisted suicide, contrary to claims made by authors of the Viewpoint article. The court only stated that a patient’s consent, if given, may be used as a legal defense. Lawyers are scratching their heads about the meaning and the ramifications of this decision which is why the Legislature should act to provide needed clarity.

HB 505 only addresses the aiding or solicitation of suicide, including physician-assisted suicide. It specifically “does not include end of life palliative care in which a dying person receives medication to alleviate pain that may incidentally hasten the dying person’s death or any act to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment” authorized by the Montana Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. The quotes are directly from the text of HB 505.

Please contact your senators and tell them to end the confusion. Please tell them to vote “yes” on HB 505.— Rick Blevins, M.D.,

Don’t make Washington’s assisted-suicide mistake

My husband and I operate two adult family homes (elder care facilities) in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. I am writing to urge you to not make Washington’s mistake.

Our assisted suicide law was enacted by a ballot measure in November 2008. During the election, the law was promoted as a right of individual people to make their own choices. That has not been our experience. We have also noticed a shift in the attitudes of doctors and nurses towards our typically elderly clients to eliminate their choices.

Four days after the election, an adult child of one of our clients asked about getting the pills (to kill his father). It wasn’t the client saying that he wanted to die. At that time, our assisted suicide law had not yet gone into effect. The father died before the law went into effect.

Since then, we have noticed that some members of the medical profession are quick to bring out the morphine to begin comfort care without considering treatment. Sometimes they do this on their own without telling the client and/or the family member in charge of the clients care.

Since our law was passed, I have also observed that some medical professionals are quick to write off older people as having no quality of life whereas in years past, most of the professionals we dealt with found joy in caring for them. Our clients reciprocated that joy and respect.

Someday, we too will be old. I, personally, want to be cared for and have my choices respected. I, for one, am quite uncomfortable with these developments. Don’t make our mistake.

Elizabeth Benedetto

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,