Monday, August 25, 2014

Legalization of 'assisted suicide' leading to increase in reports of involuntary deaths

http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/legalization-of-assisted-suicide-leading-to-increase-in-reports-of/article_5d456780-2975-11e4-a660-0019bb2963f4.html

I am president of the Hospice Patients Alliance. We are a charitable patient advocacy organization acting to preserve the original hospice mission to promote quality care at the end of a person’s life. I am writing in response to Gail Bell’s letter describing medical personnel over-reaching which caused the death of her mother.  [To view Gail Bell's letter, go here ]

A hidden and disturbing issue that I see in my work is the misuse of “terminal,” “palliative” and/or “total” sedation to end the life of a patient who is not otherwise dying, often instigated by a family member who stands to gain.

Consider the 2012 case against Kaiser Health Care. According to an article describing court documents, doctors killed the patient, a wealthy older man, in four hours and 40 minutes through a “terminal extubation,” which included a morphine overdose that “effectively ended oxygen support.” The patient’s daughters had allegedly urged this result in order to obtain large inheritances. See William Dotinga, “Grim Complaint Against Kaiser Hospital,” Feb. 6, 2012, available at www.courthousenews.com/2012/02/06/43641.htm. Moreover, per the article, court documents say that the doctors’ actions “caused the death of a relatively healthy, wealthy man with many more years to live and love.“

In some cases, the imposed death is due to a doctor’s assessment of the patient’s “quality of life” as opposed to the patient’s desire to live. This is often the case if the patient is disabled or elderly, or declared incompetent. Assisted “suicide” in these cases is clearly imposed death.

With the push to legalize assisted suicide, I have seen increased reports of involuntary deaths. Now, Bell’s report.

Death with dignity is never achieved by imposing death through “stealth euthanasia” or assisted suicide.

Ron Panzer, president,
Hospice Patients Alliance,

Rockford, Michigan

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bradley Williams takes on Compassion & Choices: Assisted suicide is not legal, not the answer

http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/assisted-suicide-is-not-legal-not-the-answer/article_445e36c4-2944-11e4-991c-001a4bcf887a.html

For a print version to use as a handout, please click here.

Guest column by BRADLEY WILLIAMS

I take exception to the opinion by two members of the former Hemlock Society, now known as “Compassion & Choices.” The opinion of July 25 implies that assisted suicide is legal in Montana, which is not true.

I am the president of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide. We are in litigation against the Montana Medical Examiners Board. As part of that litigation, we got the board to remove a position paper from its website implying that assisted suicide is legal. Assisted suicide is not legal.
The “treatment” of suicide
As part of our litigation with the board, we also obtained an affidavit from Dr. Ken Stevens, of Oregon, which is one of the few states in which assisted suicide is legal. His affidavit describes how, in Oregon, that state’s Medicaid program uses legal assisted suicide to steer patients to suicide. This is through coverage incentives. The program will not necessarily cover a treatment to cure a disease or to extend a patient’s life. The program will cover the patient’s suicide. In other words, with legal assisted suicide, desired treatments are displaced with the “treatment” of suicide.  [To view Dr. Stevens' affidavit, go here]
Backing the establishment
The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, touts itself as the great promoter of individual choice. But if you take a closer look, its actual mission is to back the medical-government establishment.
Consider the well-publicized case of Oregon cancer patient Barbara Wagner. In 2008, Oregon’s Medicaid program declined to cover “Tarceva,” a cancer drug recommended by her doctor, and offered to cover her suicide instead, terming it “aid in dying.” Wagner was devastated.
“It was horrible,” Wagner told ABCNews.com. "I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die.  But we won't give you the medication to live." http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492
The drug’s manufacturer subsequently gave Tarceva to Wagner without charge. She, nonetheless, died a short time later.
I recently asked Stevens about Tarceva. He told me that some of his patients had taken it and that for some of them it was beneficial. This was in terms of survival and better quality of life. He also told me that it can be difficult to know how a particular cancer patient will do on a particular cancer drug. He said that there are always some patients who live longer than expected, sometimes 10 or even 20 years longer, depending on the type of cancer. He said, “This is because there are always some people who beat the odds.” Barbara Wagner had wanted to be one of those people.
After Wagner’s death, Compassion & Choices stepped forward to show its true colors. Specifically, its president, Barbara Coombs Lee, published an opinion in Oregon’s largest paper taking issue with Wagner’s choice to try and live. Coombs Lee argued that Wagner should have instead given up hope and accepted her pending death. But, this was not Wagner’s choice.  [To view Coombs Lee's opinion piece, go here]
In a KATU TV interview (www.katu.com/news/specialreports/26119539.html), Wagner had said: “I’m not ready, I’m not ready to die ... I’ve got things I’d still like to do.”
A public policy to discourage cures
Coombs Lee’s opinion piece also argued for a public policy change to discourage people from seeking cures. This would presumably be through coverage incentives. For example, she said: “The burning public policy question is whether we inadvertently encourage patients to act against their own self-interest, chase an unattainable dream of cure, and foreclose the path of acceptance that curative care has been exhausted.”  [See opinion piece, page 2]
Coombs Lee is a former “managed care executive.” See (http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/coombsleebio.pdf )
Your choice is not assured by their legislation. Don’t be fooled by their double-speak.
* * *
 Bradley Williams is president of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org), a grassroots group and a Montana nonprofit public benefit association. MAAS welcomes everyone opposed to assisted suicide regardless of their views on other issues.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Montana's Law Protected Me

http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/physician-assisted-suicide-no-support-from-this-quadriplegic/article_96fd887e-1e47-11e4-8c4c-001a4bcf887a.html

I have read the guest column, "People living with disabilities support death with dignity" (July 25), which advocates for legalizing assisted suicide and/or euthanasia for the disabled. I could be described as such a person and this opinion does not speak for me. I am strongly against legalizing these practices.

When I was in high school, I was on track to get a basketball scholarship to college. And then, I was in a car accident. The accident left me in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic. In addition to my paralysis, I had other difficulties. Over the next two or three years, I gave serious thought to suicide. And I had the means to do it, but both times I got close, I stopped myself.

If instead, my doctor, an authority figure, had told me that ending my life was a rational course, there might have been a different result. If instead, he had given me a lethal dose to ingest or offered to euthanize me, I might have gone along with it. But assisted suicide and euthanasia were not legal in Montana. Such courses were off the table.

So, instead, I went to college to seek a degree in education. While in college, I participated in wheelchair racing at the state, national and international levels. I met my husband and 21 years later the honeymoon is not over. We have three beautiful daughters and a new baby granddaughter. I am also active in my community.

Montana's law protected me and I hope it will stay in place to continue to protect me and others as we go through the sometimes hard times of life.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia should not be legal.

Lucinda Hardy, Columbia Falls

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mother's death provided painful, personal example of need to stop assisted suicide

http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/mother-s-death-provided-painful-personal-example-of-need-to/article_3c8a1d98-1a9c-11e4-bb8e-001a4bcf887a.html

The July 25 guest column by Sara Myers and Dustin Hankinson begins with a discussion of pain, “great pain,” specifically. The paragraph goes on to use the phrase “great pain” to justify “death with dignity,” meaning assisted suicide and euthanasia.

With their column, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s last years and the decision of others that it was time for her to die. Pain was used as a justification for increases in her medication – to get the job done. This happened three times before she finally died in the hospital on Sept. 6, 2010. The coroner’s report, case No. 100906, lists the cause of death as congestive heart failure with oxygen deprivation and “fentanyl therapy.” The manner of death is listed as “accident.”

Fentanyl is reported “to be 80 to 200 times as potent as morphine.” It’s also well known that fentanyl patch problems cause overdoses, injuries and deaths. See www.aboutlawsuits.com/fentanyl-patch-problems-continue-overdose-deaths-55136. A 100 mcg/hour fentanyl patch has a range within 24 hours of 1.9-3.8 ng/mL. Mom’s death result was 2.7 ng/mL on/or about 48 hours.

A complaint was filed by me with the Montana Board of Medical Examiners, No. 2012-069-MED. The screening panel dismissed the complaint with prejudice, which means that the board may not consider the complaint in the future.

Since then, I have talked with other people who have had similar experiences involving the death of a family member via a medical overdose. Please see here:  www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2013/04/dont-give-doctors-more-power-to-abuse.html 

The column by Myers and Hankinson states, “I believe one should have control of one’s life including its ending.“

I agree with that statement. However, my mother did not have that control. Others dictated for her. Please rethink legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia so that we do not give others even more power to kill.

Gail Bell,
Bozeman