Saturday, September 13, 2014

Oregon doctor's experience leads him to warn Montanans not to accept assisted suicide

http://ravallirepublic.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_df457041-2d8f-5c56-92c8-05d08616234d.html


Dear Editor:

I am the doctor cited by Bradley Williams in his opinion piece, “Assisted suicide is not legal, not the answer.” (Aug. 21). I am also professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Oregon Health & Science University. I have treated thousands of patients with cancer.

Williams correctly describes how Oregon’s Medicaid program uses coverage incentives to steer patients to assisted suicide, which is legal in Oregon. In other words, Medicaid will not necessarily cover a patient’s treatment to potentially cure a disease or to extend the patient’s life. The program will cover the patient’s suicide. Desired treatments for cure or to extend life are thereby displaced with the “treatment” of suicide.

I first became involved with the assisted suicide issue shortly before my first wife died of cancer in 1982. We had just made what would be her last visit with her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication. I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said, “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.”

To learn more about how assisted suicide works in Oregon, please see my affidavit filed in Montanans Against Assisted Suicide vs. Montana Board of Medical Examiners.  The affidavit, with supporting documentation attached, can be viewed here:  https://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/dr-stevens-affidavit_001.pdf .

Protect your health care. Don’t let legal assisted suicide come to Montana.

Kenneth Stevens,
Sherwood, Oregon

Friday, September 5, 2014

Letter Supporting Bradley Williams

Dear Editor:
I was glad to see Bradley Williams’ (Aug. 21) opinion piece disputing the false claim that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.
I retired from the Motion Picture Pension and Health Plans in Studio City, California, as the chief financial officer. One reason that I retired to Montana was that I had the perception that it was senior-citizen friendly, unlike Oregon and Washington, which have adopted laws allowing doctors and family members to assist them in killing themselves. That was repugnant to me.
Of course, now that I am in Montana, I find myself in a state targeted for the legalization of assisted suicide/euthanasia by the former Hemlock Society, now known as Compassion & Choices.
With Williams’ opinion piece describing the additional mission of that organization to discourage patient cures and to defend Medicaid against individual patient choices, I see that I have even more reason to be concerned about that organization’s agenda.
I have also read the opinion piece by Compassion & Choices President Barbara Combs Lee, which is referenced by Williams. That article can be viewed at this link: maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/barbaracoombsleeagainstwagner1.pdf.
Therein, Combs Lee not only discourages individual choices and defends Medicaid, she effectively argues that she and her organization know better than individual patients acting in conjunction with their doctors (page 2, paragraph 3). While I recognize that doctors can at times be wrong and not make the best decision, I don’t want her or her organization making decisions for me. It’s my life.
Let’s keep assisted suicide, euthanasia and the rest of Compassion & Choices’ agenda out of Montana.
Ted Friesen, Bigfork

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.