Friday, March 15, 2013

Oregon's New Report Consistent with Elder Abuse

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

Oregon's assisted suicide statistics are out for 2012.[1]

This annual report is similar to prior years.  The preamble implies that the deaths were voluntary (self-administered), but the information reported does not address that subject.[2]

Oregon's assisted suicide law allows the lethal dose to be administered without oversight.[3]  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent, for example, when the patient is asleep.  Who would know?

The new Oregon report provides the following demographics:  

"Of the 77 DWDA deaths during 2012, most (67.5%) were aged 65 years or older; the median age was 69 years.  As in previous years, most were white (97.4%), [and] well-educated (42.9% had at least a baccalaureate degree) . . . ."[4]  Most (51.4%) had private health insurance.[5]

Typically persons with these attributes are seniors with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately victims of financial abuse and exploitation.[6]

As set forth above, Oregon's law is written so as to allow the lethal dose to be administered to patients without their consent and without anyone knowing how they died.  The law thus provides the opportunity for the perfect crime.  Per the new report, the persons dying (or killed) under that law are  disproportionately seniors with money, a group disproportionately victimized by financial abuse and exploitation.

Oregon's new report is consistent with elder abuse.


[1]  The new report can be viewed here: and
[2]  Id.
[3]  Oregon's law can be viewed here:
[4]  Report cited at note 1.
[5]  Id.
[6]  See "Broken Trust:  Elders, Family, and Finances," a Study on Elder Financial Abuse Prevention, by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, March 2009.

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