Friday, November 25, 2011

Bradley Williams: The Purpose of the Medical Examiner Board is to Protect Patients, NOT doctors

Dear Director Marquand and Board members,
I noticed your 11/29/11 subcommittee's agenda item: "Summary of Board's Roles."

The Role of the Medical Examiner Board is to Protect Patients, NOT doctors

ARM 24.1.101 (4)(a)(iii)(H) states:

"Board of Medical Examiners. Ensures that the public is properly protected against unprofessional, improper, unauthorized, or unqualified practice of medicine. All credentials of physicians, nutritionists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, physician assistants, podiatrists, and emergency medical technicians are reviewed by the board to ensure that only those individuals who meet the requirements of the statutes are licensed to practice in Montana."

The Board has now been requested to violate this purpose by enacting a position paper or rules to encourage doctors to cause and/or assist patient suicides.  This would be the "unprofessional, improper, unauthorized, or unqualified practice of medicine" for the followng reasons: 

Legalization would be a recipe for elder abuse in that it would allow heirs to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives.  Why would the Board risk our older citizens by going forward with regulations or in any other way implying that assisted suicide is already legal in Montana?


Legalization would allow health care providers to steer patients to suicide which has happened in Oregon. In Oregon, legalization of physician-assisted suicide is also correlated with an increase in other suicides including those of young people.  In other words, suicide begets suicide.  Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.  Why would the Board risk our older citizens and our young people by going forward with regulations or in any other way implying that assisted suicide is already legal in Montana?

Doctors can be wrong regarding prognoses.  With legalization, some Montanans with many quality years left will be encouraged by their doctors to throw their lives away.  How is this responsible medical practice?  Why would the Medical Examiner Board encourage such a thing?

Conclusion:  In the event this Board would exceed its authority and go forward to put its imprimatur on legal assisted suicide, the Board will be putting all of us and our families at risk.  I am 62 years old and a taxpayer.  I do not want some doctor telling me or my wife or the people I know that we should go kill ourselves.  The Board does not have authority to act on the request to regulate.  The request to act should be removed from the Board's agenda.  

Bradley D. Williams
Coordinator
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide &
For Living with Dignity
610 North 1st St., Suite 5, PMB 285
Hamilton, MT 59840
bradley@montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org
(406) 531-0937

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Senator Jim Shockley Published in the Montana Lawyer

"No, physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana:
 It's a recipe for elder abuse and more".[1] 

By State Senator Jim Shockley and Margaret Dore
Published in The Montana Lawyer
The State Bar of Montana

There are two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.  These states have statutes that  give doctors and others who participate in a qualified patient’s suicide immunity from criminal and civil liability.  (ORS 127.800-995 and RCW 70.245). 

In Montana, by contrast, the law on assisted suicide is governed by the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234 (2009).  Baxter gives doctors who assist a patient’s suicide a potential defense to criminal prosecution.  Baxter does not legalize assisted suicide by giving doctors or anyone else immunity from criminal and civil liability.  Under Baxter, a doctor cannot be assured that a suicide will qualify for the defense.  Some assisted suicide proponents nonetheless claim that Baxter has legalized assisted suicide in Montana.

Legalizing assisted suicide in Montana would be a recipe for elder abuse.  The practice has multiple other problems.

What is physician-assisted suicide?

The American Medical Association (AMA) states: “Physician-assisted suicide occurs 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.”  (Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 2.211).  For example, a “physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide.”  (Id.)

The Baxter decision

Baxter found that there was no indication in Montana law that physician-assisted suicide, which the Court termed “aid in dying,” is against public policy.  (354 Mont. at 240, ¶¶ 13, 49-50).  Based on this finding, the Court held that a patient’s consent to aid in dying “constitutes a statutory defense to a charge of homicide against the aiding physician.”  (Id. at 251, ¶ 50).

Baxter, however, overlooked elder abuse.  The Court stated that the only person “who might conceivably be prosecuted for criminal behavior is the physician who prescribes a lethal dose of medication.”  (354 Mont. at 239, ¶ 11).  The Court thereby overlooked criminal behavior by family members and others who benefit from a patient’s death, for example, due to an inheritance.

Baxter also overlooked caselaw imposing civil liability on persons who cause or fail to prevent a suicide.  See Krieg v. Massey, 239 Mont. 469, 472-3 (1989) and Nelson v. Driscoll, 295 Mont. 363, ¶¶ 32-33 (1999).  Baxter is, regardless, a narrow decision in which doctors cannot be assured that a suicide will qualify for the defense.  Attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman provide this analysis:

If the idea of suicide itself is suggested to the patient first by the doctor or even by the family, instead of being on the patient's sole initiative, the situation exceeds "aid in dying" as conceived by the Court.  If a particular suicide decision process is anything but "private, civil, and compassionate," . . . , the Court's decision wouldn't guarantee a consent defense.  If the patient is less than "conscious," is unable to "vocalize" his decision, or gets help because he is unable to "self-administer," or the drug fails and someone helps complete the killing, Baxter would not apply. . . .
No doctor can prevent these human contingencies from occurring in a given case . . . in order to make sure that he can later use the consent defense if he is charged with murder.
“Analysis of Implications of the Baxter Case on Potential Criminal Liability,” Spring 2010, at  http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/baxter-case-analysis.html


The 2011 Legislative Session

The 2011 legislative session featured two bills in response to Baxter, both of which failed: SB 116, which would have eliminated Baxter’s potential defense; and SB 167, which would have legalized assisted suicide by providing doctors and others with immunity from criminal and civil liability.

During a hearing on SB 167, the bill's sponsor, Senator Anders Blewett, said:  “[U]nder current law, ... there’s nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution.”  ( http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/blewett_speckhart_trans_001.pdf ).  Dr. Stephen Speckart made a similar statement: "[M]ost physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision."  (Id. at p.2)

Legalization would create new paths of abuse

In Montana, there has been a rapid growth of elder abuse.  Elders' vulnerabilities and larger net worth make them a target for financial abuse.  The perpetrators are often family members motivated by an inheritance.  See e.g.  www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/mmi-study-broken-trust-elders-family-finances.pdf .

Preventing elder abuse is official Montana state policy.  See e.g., 52-3-801, MCA.  If Montana would legalize physician-assisted suicide, a new path of abuse would be created against the elderly, which would be contrary to that policy.  Alex Schadenberg, Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, International, states:
With assisted suicide laws in Washington and Oregon, perpetrators can . . . take a 'legal' route, by getting an elder to sign a lethal dose request.  Once the prescription is filled, there is no supervision over the administration. . . . [E]ven if a patient struggled, “who would know?
http://www.isb.idaho.gov/pdf/advocate/issues/adv10oct.pdf, p. 14.

“Terminally Ill” Does Not Mean Dying

Baxter’s potential defense applies when patients are "terminally ill," which Baxter does not define.  In Oregon, “terminal” patients are defined as those having less than six months to live.  Such persons are not necessarily dying.  Doctors can be wrong.  Moreover, treatment can lead to recovery.  Oregon resident, Jeanette Hall, who was diagnosed with cancer and told that she had six months to a year to live, said:


I wanted to do our [assisted suicide] law and I wanted my doctor to help me.  Instead, he encouraged me to not give up . . .  I had both chemotherapy and radiation. . . .
It is now 10 years later.  If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead. 
http://mtstandard.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_aeef3982-9a98-11df-8db2-001cc4c002e0.html 
Legal physician-assisted suicide empowered the Oregon Health Plan, not individual patients 

Once a patient is labeled “terminal,” an easy argument can be made that his or her treatment should be denied.  This has happened in Oregon where patients labeled “terminal” have not only been denied coverage for treatment, they have been offered assisted-suicide instead.

The most well known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup.  (KATU TV, at http://www.katu.com/news/26119539.html , ABC News, at http://www.abcnews.go.com/Health/Story?id=5517492  Ken Stevens, MD, at pp. 16-17, at http://choiceillusionoregon.blogspot.com/p/oregons-mistake-costs-lives.html).  The Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for their desired treatments and offered to pay for their suicides instead.  Neither Wagner nor Stroup saw this as a celebration of their “choice.”  Wagner said: “I’m not ready to die.”  Stroup said: “This is my life they’re playing with.”
            
Stroup and Wagner were steered to suicide and it was the Oregon Health Plan doing the steering.  Oregon’s law empowered the Oregon Health Plan, not individual patients.

Oregon’s studies are invalid

Oregon’s statute does not require a doctor to be present when the lethal dose is administered.  (ORS 127.800-995).  During a hearing on SB 167, Senator Jeff Essmann made a related point, as follows:
[A]ll the protections [in Oregon’s law] end after the prescription is written.  [The proponents] admitted that the provisions in the Oregon law would permit one person to be alone in that room with the patient.  And in that situation, there is no guarantee that that medication is self-administered.
So frankly, any of the studies that come out of the state of Oregon’s experience are invalid because no one who administers that drug . . . to that patient is going to be turning themselves in for the commission of a homicide.
Senate Judiciary Hearing Transcript, February 10, 2011, p.15, at http://www.margaretdore.com/pdf/senator_essmann_sb_167_001.pdf

Public confusion

In Montana, the moving force behind legalizing assisted suicide is Denver-based Compassion & Choices.  On September 15, 2011, that organization’s president published an article on Huffington Post claiming that under Baxter physicians in Montana are “safe from prosecution.”  ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-coombs-lee/aid-in-dying-montana_b_960555.html )  This is clearly not the case and  propaganda.  A physician relying on her advice could be charged with homicide.

Conclusion  

Baxter is a flawed decision that overlooked elder abuse.  Baxter has created confusion in the law, which has put Montana citizens at risk.  Neither the legal profession nor the medical profession has the necessary guidance to know what is lawful. 


Legalizing assisted suicide is bad public policy.  Doctors’ diagnoses can be wrong and legalization is a recipe for abuse.  Legalization would also allow the state government to encourage citizens to kill themselves.  This is an area where the government does not belong.  Montana consistently has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.   Montana doesn’t need the “Oregon Experience.”


Legislation should be enacted to overrule Baxter and clearly declare that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.  
      
* * *

Senator Jim Shockley, of Victor, is a Republican State Senator, probate lawyer, and an adjunct instructor at the University of Montana School of Law. 

Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.  She is also President of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted-suicide.  (www.choiceillusion.org)  She is a Democrat.  

* * *

[1] To read this article as published in The Montana Lawyer and the opposing article by Senator Anders Blewett, go here:
http://www.montanabar.org/associations/7121/November%202011%20mt%20lawyer.pdf                                                                                                  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Compassion & Choices of WA Embraces Derek Humphry

Just in from Washington State:

Compassion & Choices of Washington has announced that Derek Humphry will be the keynote speaker at its 2011 annual meeting.[1]

Derek Humphry has recently been in the news as a promoter of suicide kits from a company now shut down by the FBI.  According to an article in Oregon's Register-Guard newspaper:
"A spotlight was cast on the mail-order suicide kit business after a 29-year-old Eugene man committed suicide in December using a helium hood kit. The Register-Guard traced the $60 kit to [the company, which] has no website and does no advertising; clients find [the] address through the writings of Humphry."[2]
With the choice of Humphry as its keynote speaker, Compassion & Choices shows its true colors?
* * *
[1]  See current newsletter for Compassion & Choices of Washington, stating :  "Derek Humphry to be Keynote Speaker at 2011 Annual Meeting."  To view the newsletter, go to the following link and scroll down to the lower half of the page:  http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/derek.pdf
[2]  See e.g., Jack Moran, "Police kick in door in confusion over suicide kit:  The FBI message to police about the purchase of the gear failed to mention it was bought seven months ago, "  The Register-Guard, September 21, 2011.

Bradley Williams Published "Legally Bound"

http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2011/10/14/legally-bound-2/

By Bradley D. Williams on October 14, 2011

I am the coordinator of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity. I disagree with Alex Yahanda that assisted suicide is legal in Montana (“The grateful dead,” Oct. 13). A bill that would have legalized assisted suicide in Montana was defeated this last legislative session. Legal assisted suicide is, regardless, a recipe for abuse.

Montana has been targeted for legalization by the Denver-based suicide promotion organization Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society. In 2007, Compassion & Choices initiated litigation which ultimately resulted in the Baxter decision issued on December 31, 2009. Baxter gives doctors, and only doctors, a potential defense to criminal prosecution for causing or assisting a suicide. Assisted suicide is not “legalized” by giving doctors or anyone else criminal or civil immunity.

In 2011, Compassion & Choices tried again, by backing a bill in our legislature. This bill, SB 167, would have legalized assisted suicide in Montana, but failed.
During a debate on SB 167, its sponsor State Senator Anders Blewett, a lawyer, conceded that the Baxter decision allows a doctor to be prosecuted for assisting a suicide. He said: “[U]nder the current law … there’s nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution.” Similar statements were made by others. For example, Dr. Stephen Speckart testified that “most physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision.”
To view transcript excerpts, go to http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/blewett_speckhart_trans_001.pdf.

Legal assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse. For example, according to the legalization bill proposed by Compassion & Choices, there would be no witnesses required at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, an opportunity would be created for an heir or someone else who would benefit from the death to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?

Other problems with assisted suicide are discussed in our talking points. These problems include the “Barbara Wagner” scenario in which patients can be steered to suicide by health care providers. For Wagner, this included a government health plan. Other problems are suicide contagion and the pesky issue that people targeted through these laws are not necessarily dying any time soon.

To view our talking points, please go to http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/talking-points.html.

Bradley D. Williams

Coordinator, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide
& For Living with Dignity

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bradley Williams Objects to Attempted Back Door Legalization of Assisted Suicide

With assisted suicide not legal in Montana, Denver-based Compassion & Choices has been resorting to back door methods to try and obtain legalization.  Just last week, Compassion & Choices doctor, Stephen Speckart, wrote a letter to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners in one such attempt.  Bradley Williams' objection below with a link to Speckart's letter below that:

October 5, 2011


Ian Marquand
Executive Director
MT Board of Medical Examiners
(406) 841-2360

Re:     Speckart Request Must be Denied Because Assisted Suicide is Not Legal Under Baxter
Dear Mr. Marquand and Members of the Board:

        I am the Coordinator of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity.  This E-mail responds to Dr. Speckart’s letter claiming that assisted suicide is legal under Baxter and requesting that the Board declare assisted suicide a medical treatment.

        Dr. Speckart’s claim that assisted suicide is legal is untrue.  Please see the written opinions of attorneys Greg Jackson, Matt Bowman and Margaret Dore described and linked below.  Dr. Speckart’s claim is also counter to his own testimony during the 2011 legislative session.  A transcript of that testimony is also described and linked below.

        With assisted suicide not legal, the Board has no basis on which to recognize assisted suicide as a medical treatment.


A.  Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman

        As you may know, Greg Jackson is one of Montana’s most accomplished defense attorneys.  He's handled over 20 homicide cases, and 14 homicide trials, including such high profile cases as the Montana prison riot (5 homicides) and the trial of Nathaniel Bar Jonah.  His analysis of Baxter with attorney Matt Bowman concludes:
"The Montana Supreme Court's assisted suicide decision ... didn't even 'legalize' assisted suicide ... After Baxter, assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."
        To view their entire analysis, go here: http://montanansagainstassistedsuicide.blogspot.com/p/baxter-case-analysis.html

B.  Margaret Dore

         Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.  She is also President of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide.  ( www.choiceillusion.org) She was an amicus curie in the Baxter litigation.  She is a former Law Clerk to the Washington State Supreme Court where she clerked for then Chief Justice Vernon Pearson.  Her analysis states:
“Baxter gives doctors who assist a suicide a potential defense to criminal prosecution. Baxter does not legalize assisted suicide by giving doctors or anyone else immunity from criminal and civil liability. Under Baxter, a doctor cannot be assured that a particular suicide will qualify for the defense.
        To view her entire analysis, go here: http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/search/label/Margaret%20Dore

        C.      Dr. Speckart

        During the 2011 Legislative session, Dr. Speckhart testified in support of SB 167, which had sought to legalize assisted suicide in Montana.  He stated: "Most physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision." (Emphasis added).

        Senator Anders Blewett, a lawyer, had made a similar statement:  "Under the current law [Baxter] ... there's nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution."

        To view a transcript of their statements, please go here: maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/blewett_speckhart_trans_001.pdf


        D.  Conclusion

         Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.  A doctor who engages in this practice is subject to criminal and civil liability, and professional discipline.  Assisted suicide is not a medical treatment.

Bradley D. Williams
Coordinator
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide &
For Living with Dignity

www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org 610 North 1st St., Suite 5, PMB 285
Hamilton, MT 59840

bradley@montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org
(406) 531-0937 

To view Dr. Speckart's letter, go here:  http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/speckart-letter.pdf      

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bradley Williams: Setting the Record Straight

Bradley Williams' Letter to the Missoula Independent:

I was appalled to see Skyler Brownings's uncritical posting of Barbara Coombs Lee's propaganda piece about assisted suicide in Montana. ["Montana leads the way in end-of-life choice"]. Coombs Lee is the President of Denver-based Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society.

First, to be clear, assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. The Montana Supreme Court Baxter decision merely gave doctors a potential defense to prosecution for homicide. This defense is not guaranteed. Baxter did not address, let alone reverse prior caselaw allowing doctors and others to be sued for causing or failing to prevent a suicide. Montana attorney Greg Jackson, with attorney Matt Bowman, states: "After Baxter, assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."
http://montanansagainstassistedsuicide.blogspot.com/p/baxter-case-analysis.html

Second, legalization is a recipe for elder abuse. Legalization would allow heirs and others who will benefit financially from an older person's death to legally pressure and abuse that person to end his or her life. This is contrary to Montana official public policy to prevent elder abuse.

Third, legalization will empower healthcare providers, including the government, to steer individuals to suicide. This has happened in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. The most well known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup. Each wanted treatment. The Oregon Health Plan offered them coverage for suicide instead. See e.g. Susan Donaldson James, "Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon," ABC News, August 6, 2008 athttp://abcnews.go.com/Health/Story?id=5517492  Montana does not need
the "Oregon experience."

For factual information about assisted suicide, please visit our website at
www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org Please sign our petition! Donations are appreciated!

Bradley D. Williams
Coordinator
www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide
& For Living with Dignity
610 North First St, Ste 5-285
Hamilton, MT 59840
406 531 0937

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Propaganda About Montana: Baxter & Assisted Suicide

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, has posted a propaganda piece on Huffington Post falsely claiming that a physician who assists a suicide in Montana is "safe" from prosecution.  My request for equal time to correct the record on Huffington Post has been ignored.  A discussion of the actual law of Montana is set forth below. 

A.  Assisted Suicide

There are just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.  These states have statutes that give doctors and others who participate in a qualified patient’s suicide, immunity from criminal and civil liability.  (ORS 127.800-995 and RCW 70.245). 

In Montana, by contrast, the law on assisted suicide is governed by the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234 (2009).  Baxter gives doctors who assist a suicide a potential defense to criminal prosecution.  Baxter does not legalize assisted suicide by giving doctors or anyone else immunity from criminal and civil liability.  Under Baxter, a doctor cannot be assured that a particular suicide will qualify for the defense. 

B.  The Baxter Decision is Wrong

Baxter found that there was no indication in Montana law that physician-assisted suicide, which the Court termed “aid in dying,” is against public policy.  (354 Mont. at 240, ¶¶ 13, 49-50).  Based on this finding, the Court held that a patient’s consent to assisted suicide “constitutes a statutory defense to a charge of homicide against the aiding physician.”  (Id. at 251, ¶ 50).

Baxter, however, overlooked caselaw imposing civil liability on persons who cause or fail to prevent a suicide.  See e.g., Krieg v. Massey, 239 Mont. 469, 472-3 (1989) and Nelson v. Driscoll, 295 Mont. 363, ¶¶ 32-33 (1999).  Baxter also overlooked elder abuse.  The Court stated that the only person “who might conceivably be prosecuted for criminal behavior is the physician who prescribes a lethal dose of medication.”  (354 Mont. at 239, ¶ 11).  The Court thereby overlooked criminal behavior by family members and others who benefit from a patient’s death, for example, due to an inheritance.

The Baxter decision is fundamentally flawed and wrong.

C.  Doctors are not "Safe" Under Baxter

Baxter is a narrow decision via which doctors cannot be assured that a particular suicide will qualify for the defense. Attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman provide this analysis:

"If the patient is less than 'conscious,' is unable to 'vocalize' his decision, or gets help because he is unable to 'self-administer,' or the drug fails and someone helps complete the killing, Baxter would not apply. . . .

http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/baxter-case-analysis.html

Even if a doctor "beats the rap" on prosecution, there is the issue of civil liability.  See Krieg and Nelson, supra.  Like O.J. Simpson, a doctor who escapes criminal liability could find himself sued by a family member upset that he "killed mom."  The doctor could be held liable for civil damages.

* * *

Margaret Dore is President of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted-suicide. (www.choiceillusion.org She is also an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.

* * *

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-coombs-lee/aid-in-dying-montana_b_960555.html 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Barbara Coombs Lee Renews Plea to Eliminate Oregon Reporting Consistent with Elder Abuse

By Margaret Dore

Today, Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, published a blog on Huffington Post arguing that reporting for Oregon's assisted suicide act is no longer needed.[1]  This is the same claim that Compassion & Choices made in Montana before its proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide was defeated last February.

The reporting in question is consistent with elder abuse, i.e., of people with money.  This quote is from my memo against Compassion & Choices' bill, SB 167:

"Doctor reporting is . . . eliminated.1  The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, claims that this is because Oregon’s reporting system has “demonstrated the safety of the practice.”2  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 view the entire memo, click here. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Washington State: "Hear No Evil, See No Evil"

Dear Editor:

Margaret K. Dore's article regarding Washington's assisted suicide law [Bar Bulletin, July] highlights a troubling disconnect between this statute and the commendable trend in Washington law to recognize and protect elders from abuse.

On the one hand, the Slayer's Statute, RCW 11.84, was recently amended to penalize heirs who financially exploit a vulnerable adult. On the other hand, safeguards for assisted suicide are minimal, far less than the standards demanded for executing a valid will. As Ms. Dore points out, record-keeping by the state appears to consist of the "hear-no-evil, see-no-evil" variety.

Theresa Schrempp
Sonkin & Schrempp, PLLC

To view Dore's article, "Assisted-Suicide Report Lacks Information about Consent, click here.

To view Washington's official report, click here.

To view the above letter, go here (the link may not work for non-bar members):  https://www.kcba.org/newsevents/barbulletin/BView.aspx?Month=09&Year=2011&AID=letters.htm

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Emperor Has No Clothes: "VSED"

Compassion & Choices, the Denver-based organization behind the push to legalize assisted suicide in Montana, has a new campaign.  They call it VSED: "Voluntarily" stopping eating and drinking.  Below, Kate Kelly provides a real life example: "I watched her suffer." 

______________________________________________

Mild stroke led to mother's forced starvation 
 
By Kate Kelly

I watched an old woman die of hunger and thirst.  She had Alzheimer's, this old woman, and was child-like, trusting, vulnerable, with a child's delight at treats of chocolate and ice cream, and a child's fear and frustration when tired or ill.

I watched her die for six days and nights.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Assisted suicide: Court overlooked elder abuse

Bradley Williams letter published in the Missoulian:

http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_7a0f4602-d0e4-11e0-bb9d-001cc4c002e0.html 
Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2011 1:39 pm |

John Board’s (August 24) letter accurately quotes my letter (August 18): “The Montana Supreme Court’s assisted suicide decision ... didn’t even ‘legalize’ assisted suicide.” This quote is from a legal analysis of the Baxter decision by attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman. They also state: “The Court merely allowed a possible consent defense if persons continue to be charged with murder for assisted suicide ... After Baxter, assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved.”

During the recent legislative session, Sen. Anders Blewett, another attorney, made statements on the record demonstrating his understanding that it was not legally safe for doctors to assist a patient’s suicide. For example, he said: “under the current law ... there’s nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution.”

Board’s letter also quotes this statement from Baxter: “In conclusion, we find nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy.” When making this statement, Baxter overlooked our public policies against elder abuse. See, e.g., Sen. Greg Hinkle’s report to the legislature with attorney Margaret Dore, which states: “The Court ... overlooked criminal behavior by family members and others who benefit from a patient’s death, for example, due to an inheritance.” (Senate Hearing Record, SB 116.) For more information, see Margaret Dore, “Physician-Assisted Suicide: Not Legal in Montana; A Recipe for Elder Abuse,” July 15, 2011, www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/assisted-suicide-is-not-legal-in.html  

If anyone would like to help keep assisted suicide out of Montana, please contact me. Donations are also appreciated. Thank you!

Bradley D. Williams,Coordinator,
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide
& For Living with Dignity,
Hamilton

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Aid in Dying: Assisted Suicide is Not Legal in Montana

Thursday, August 18, 2011 8:45 am

Thank you for your article about Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living with Dignity and our information booth at the Western Montana Fair. ("Opponents have their say at information booth," Aug. 10). I enjoyed being interviewed by the student journalist, who was very professional.

The article states that physician-assisted suicide, which the article terms "aid in dying," was ruled legal by the Montana Supreme Court. That would be the Baxter decision, which did not legalize assisted suicide. Your readers may be interested in this analysis of Baxter by attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman, at montanansagainstassistedsuicide.blogspot.com/p/baxter-case-analysis.html. They state: "The Montana Supreme Court's assisted suicide decision ... didn't even 'legalize' assisted suicide ... After Baxter, assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."

A bill that would have legalized assisted suicide, Senate Bill 167, was defeated in the last legislative session. During the hearing on that bill, the sponsor, Sen. Anders Blewett, made statements conceding that assisted suicide was not legal then, and with the failure of his bill, it's not legal now. For example, he said: "Under the current law ... there's nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution." Similar statements were made by others. For example, Dr. Stephen Speckart testified: "Most physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision."

To view transcript excerpts, go here: maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/blewett_speckhart_trans_001.pdf.

I invite all of your readers to look at our website, www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org. If anyone would like to help keep assisted suicide out of Montana, please contact me. Donations are also appreciated. Thank you.

Bradley D. Williams, coordinator, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity, Hamilton

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Opponents have their say at information booth



The on line version of the article below has a nice photo of Bradley Williams.  His letter to the editor, submitted today, corrects the assertion that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.

http://missoulian.com/article_500a38da-c38d-11e0-9253-001cc4c002e0.html
By MARIELLE GALLAGHER for the Missoulian | Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 2:11 pm

The Commercial Building at the Western Montana Fair has a new booth: Montanans Against Assisted Suicide.

According to its website, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and For Living With Dignity "welcome(s) everyone opposed to assisted suicide, regardless of your views on other issues."

In 2009, physician aid in dying was ruled legal by the Montana Supreme Court. The group's goal at the fair is making assisted suicide illegal in Montana. Regardless of one's opinion on the subject, the attention the booth has already begun to receive at the fair is undeniable.

Bradley Williams currently coordinates the effort. This includes tasks as large as a trip to a legislative session to discuss his cause, which he describes as being "full of representatives who were receptive, gracious, and sincere," and as small as manning the organization's booth at the fair, where he offers information on the case against assisted suicide.

This is a huge shift from Williams' involvement three years ago. He first took notice of the issue in 2008, when a state judge declared that dying with dignity was a constitutional right and physicians could prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill, mentally competent patients.

"I thought a citizen's duty was to pay taxes, vote, attend jury duty," said Williams. "But that was the catalyst that made me realize it was also important to be involved in public discourse."

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in Oregon and Washington as well as Montana.

According to Williams, the definition of someone who is terminally ill - and thus eligible for assisted suicide - is too broad, and the potential for elder abuse too great, for aid in dying to be legal.

One of the arguments used by proponents of the cause is that allowing someone to suffer unnecessarily is inhumane. Williams counters that "the science of pain control is developing as quickly as computer technology."

Tuesday afternoon, the first day of the fair, a woman approached the booth and began looking through a list of talking points lying on the table. Several more people paused to look over the information.
Marielle Gallagher is a Midway Dispatch reporter for the Missoulian and a Hellgate High School junior. She can be reached at mariellegallagher26@gmail.com.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Senator Blewett's Statements Concede That Assisted Suicide is Not Legal in Montana

Health care:  State doesn't need legal suicide,
Published in the Missoulian, Wednesday, June 15, 2011 8:45 am

I am amazed with the letter by Sen. Anders Blewett claiming that doctors can't be convicted of homicide if they cause or assist a suicide in Montana ("Physician aid in dying: Bill's rejection a step forward," June 10). His bill, Senate Bill 167, which would have accomplished that goal, was defeated this last legislative session.

Blewett's current claim is also the exact opposite of what he said when he was trying to get his bill passed. I have transcripts from the hearings on SB167. Blewett's quotes include: "under the current law ... there's nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution." Similar statements were made by others. For example, Dr. Stephen Speckart testified: "most physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision." 

To view transcript excerpts, go here: http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/blewett_speckhart_trans_001.pdf


Blewett's current claim is also contrary to the analysis of Montana attorney Greg Jackson, who with attorney Matt Bowman, states: "The Montana Supreme Court's assisted suicide decision ... didn't even 'legalize' assisted suicide ... After Baxter, assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."  http://montanansagainstassistedsuicide.blogspot.com/p/baxter-case-analysis.html 

Blewett's bill, SB167, was defeated because it was a doctor-protection bill at the expense of individual patient rights. Legal assisted suicide is also a recipe for elder abuse in which heirs and others are empowered to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, patients desiring treatment have been offered assisted suicide instead. With the gaps in that law, patients are also unprotected from someone administering the lethal dose to them against their will.

Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. Let's keep it that way.


Sen. Greg Hinkle, Thompson Falls

Get Your Bumper Stickers Here!

Mail your check payable to MAAS, 610 N. 1st Street, Suite 5, PMB 285, Hamilton, MT 59840.

$1.00 each + $5.00 shipping for orders of less than 50.  For larger orders or to pay via credit card, please contact Bradley Williams, Coordinator, 406, 531-0937, Bradley@MontanansAgainstAssistedSuicide.org

Thank you so much!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Legal Analysis of SB 167

In the 2011 Legislative Session, Senator Anders Blewett sponsored SB 167, which would have legalized Oregon-style assisted suicide in Montana.  The bill failed in Committee the day after it was heard.  To read an analysis of that bill, go here.

Bradley Williams Speaks Against SB 167

An out-of-state group with a big budget tried to legalize assisted suicide in Montana. Click this link to see what Bradley D. Williams had to say about it: 
Bradley Williams Speaks Against Assisted Suicide

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Assisted Suicide is not Legal in Montana

Assisted Suicide: Not Legal in Montana;
 A Recipe for Elder Abuse and More

By Margaret Dore, July 15, 2011*

A. Introduction

 Proponents claim that physician-assisted suicide is legal in Montana. This is untrue. A bill that would have accomplished that goal was defeated in the 2011 legislature.

Legal physician-assisted suicide is, regardless, a recipe for elder abuse. It empowers heirs and others at the expense of older people.  In Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, legalization has empowered the Oregon Health Plan to steer patients to suicide.  There are multiple other problems.

B. What is Physician-Assisted Suicide?

 The American Medical Association (AMA) states: "Physician-assisted suicide occurs 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." (AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211). For example, a "physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide." Id.

 The AMA rejects physician-assisted suicide. Id. Assisted suicide is also opposed by disability rights groups such as the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund, and Not Dead Yet.

C.  Most States do not Allow Physician-Assisted Suicide

There are just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal:  Oregon and Washington.  These states have statutes that give doctors and others immunity from criminal and civil liability arising out of a patient's suicide (euphemistically termed "death with dignity").  See e.g. RCW 70.245.190(1)(a).  These statutes were passed via ballot initiatives.  No such law has ever made it through the scrutiny of a legislature.

D.  Current Montana Law

Under current Montana law, assisting a suicide exposes the assister to civil and criminal liability. Doctors and others can be held civilly liable for: (1) causing another to commit suicide; or (2) failing to prevent a suicide in a custodial situation where the suicide is foreseeable.[1]  This latter situation would typically occur in a hospital or prison.[2]  Those who assist a suicide can also be prosecuted for homicide under Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-102(1).  Doctors, however, have the right to assert an affirmative defense based on the victim’s consent and other factors. This is due to the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234, ¶¶ 10 & 50, 224 P.3d 1211 (2009).[3]

E. The 2011 Legislative Session

 The 2011 legislative session featured two bills in response to Baxter, both of which failed: SB 116, which would have eliminated Baxter’s affirmative defense; and SB 167, which would have legalized assisted suicide by providing doctors and others with immunity from civil and criminal liability.

During a hearing on SB 167, the bill's sponsor, Senator Anders Blewett, said: "[U]nder current law, . . . there’s nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution."[4]

F. Legalization Will Create New Paths of Abuse

In Montana, there has been a rapid growth of elder abuse.[5]  Elders’ vulnerabilities and larger net worth make them a prime target for financial abuse.[6]  The perpetrators are often family members interested in an inheritance.[7] 

In Montana, preventing elder abuse is official state policy.[8]  If Montana would legalize physician-assisted suicide, a new path of abuse would be created against the elderly.  Alex Schadenberg, Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, International, states:

"With assisted suicide laws in Washington and Oregon, perpetrators can . . . take a "legal" route, by getting an elder to sign a lethal dose request. Once the prescription is filled, there is no supervision over the administration. . . . [E]ven if a patient struggled, "who would know?"[9]

G. "Terminally Ill" Does Not Mean Dying

Baxter’s affirmative defense applies when patients are "terminally ill," a term that Baxter does not define.  During the Baxter litigation, the plaintiffs offered this definition:

"'Terminally ill adult patient' means '[an adult] who has an incurable or irreversible condition that, without the administration of life-sustaining treatment, will, in the opinion of his or her attending physician, result in death within a relatively short time.'"[10]

This definition is broad enough to include patients with chronic conditions who could "live for decades."  Attorney Theresa Schrempp and doctor Richard Wonderly state:

"[The] definition is broad enough to include an 18 year old who is insulin dependent or dependent on kidney dialysis, or a young adult with stable HIV/AIDS.  Each of these patients could live for decades with appropriate medical treatment.  Yet they are 'terminally ill' according to the definition promoted by advocates of assisted suicide."[11]

H. Legal Physician-Assisted Suicide Empowered the Oregon Health Plan, Not Individual Patients

 Once a patient is labeled "terminal," an easy argument can be made that his or her treatment should be denied. This has happened in Oregon where patients labeled "terminal" have not only been denied coverage for treatment, they have been offered assisted-suicide instead.

The most well known cases involve Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup. (KATU TV, ABC News).[12]  The Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for their desired treatments and offered to pay for their suicides instead. Neither Wagner nor Stroup saw this as a celebration of their "choice." Stroup said: "This is my life they’re playing with." Wagner said: "I’m not ready to die."

Stroup and Wagner were steered to suicide. Moreover, it was the Oregon Health Plan doing the steering. Oregon’s law empowered the Oregon Health Plan, not individual patients. 

I. In Oregon, Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide is Correlated to an Increase in Other Suicides

Oregon's suicide rate, which excludes suicide under Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, has been "increasing significantly" since 2000.[13]  Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide. [14]  In Oregon, legalization of physician-assisted suicide is statistically correlated with an increased rate of other suicides.

J.  The Oregon Reports do not Prove That Assisted-Suicide is "Safe"

 During the 2011 legislative session in Montana, proponents claimed that annual reports from Oregon demonstrated the safety of physician-assisted suicide.  These reports do not discuss whether the people who died consented when the lethal dose was administered.  During a hearing on SB 167, Senator Jeff Essmann made a related point, as follows:

"[A]ll the protections [in Oregon’s law] end after the prescription is written. [The proponents] admitted that the provisions in the Oregon law would permit one person to be alone in that room with the patient. And in that situation, there is no guarantee that that medication is self-administered.

So frankly, any of the studies that come out of the state of Oregon’s experience are invalid because no one who administers that drug against – to that patient is going to be turning themselves in for the commission of a homicide."[15]

K.  SB 167 was Defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee

During the hearing on SB 167, Senator Essman also stated:

"There’s inadequate protection in [SB 167] for the powerless.  It’s our obligation to protect the powerless. . . .  I’m going to vote no."[16]

SB 167, seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Montana, was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee.[17] 

L. Conclusion

 Legal assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse.  The practice has multiple other problems.  Don't make Oregon's and Washington's mistake.  Keep assisted suicide out of Montana.


*  Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.  She was an amicus curie in the Baxter litigation.  She testified before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee against SB 167, which had sought to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Montana.  Her publications include Margaret K. Dore, "Aid in Dying: Not Legal in Idaho; Not About Choice," The Advocate, official publication of the Idaho State Bar, Vol. 52, No. 9, pages 18-20, September 2010.

* * *

[1]   Krieg v. Massey, 239 Mont. 469, 472-3, 781 P.2d 277 (1989). 
[2]  Id.
[3]  To view Baxter, go here.  To view an analysis of Baxter, go here.
[4]  Go here to see a transcript of this quote and other quotes by Senator Blewett. 
[5]  Great Falls Tribune, "Forum will focus on the rapid growth in abuse of elders," June 10 2009 ("The statistics are frightening, and unless human nature takes a turn for the better, they’re almost certain to get worse").  See also Nicole Grigg, Elder Abuse Prevention, Kulr8.com, June 15, 2010 and Big Sky Prevention of Elder Abuse Program, What is Elder Abuse.
[6]  MetLife Mature Market Institute Study:  Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances, 2009. 
[7]  Id.
[8]  See e.g., the "Montana Elder and Persons With Developmental Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act," 52-3-801, MCA; the Protective Services Act for Aged Persons or Disabled Adults, 52-3-201, MCA; and the "Montana Older Americans Act," 52-3-501, et. al., MCA.  Also go here
[9]  Alex Schadenberg, Letter to the Editor, "Elder abuse a growing problem," The Advocate, official publication of the Idaho State Bar, October 2010, page 14, available at http://www.isb.idaho.gov/pdf/advocate/issues/adv10oct.pdf
[10]  Plaintiffs’ Answer to Interrogatory No. 4, available at page 3, here:  http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/ConnMemo02.pdf  
[11]  Opinion Letter from Dr. Richard Wonderly and Theresa Schrempp, Esq., to Alex Schadenberg, available here:  http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/ConnMemo02.pdf
[12]  See Susan Harding and KATU web staff, "Letter noting assisted suicide raises questions," July 30, 2008 and Susan Donaldson James, "Death drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon," ABC News, August 6, 2008.  See also Ken Stevens, MD, "Oregon mistake costs lives," official publication of the Idaho State Bar, September 2010, pages 16-17, available at http://www.isb.idaho.gov/pdf/advocate/issues/adv10sep.pdf ("In Oregon, the mere presence of legal assisted-suicide steers patients to suicide . . . ").
[13]  See Oregon Government News Release, September 9, 2010 ("suicide rates have been increasing significantly since 2000"); and "Suicides in Oregon, Trends and Risk Factors, September 2010 ("Deaths relating to the death with Dignity Act (physician-assisted suicides) are not classified as suicides by Oregon law and therefore excluded from this report").
[14]  See e.g., "Oregon's Death with Dignity Act:  The First Year's Experience," page 1 ("On October 27, 1997, physician-assisted suicide became a legal medical option for terminally ill Oregonians").
[15]  Montana Senate Judiciary Hearing, February 10, 2011, Transcript, p. 15, lines 1 to 11, available here. 
[16]  Id., lines 12 to 14.
[17]  See Montana Legislative website at
http://www.leg.mt.gov/css/default.asp (SB 167 was tabled in Committee on February 10, 2010).

Bradley Williams Letter Published in Missoulian

Assisted Suicide:  State can't afford legalizing suicide

Thursday, June 2, 2011 8:30 am

First, it is not true that physician-assisted suicide is legal in Montana. In the 2011 Legislature, Sen. Anders Blewett's bill, which would have accomplished that goal, failed. During the hearing on the bill, Senate Bill 167, Blewett also conceded that physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. He said: "(U)nder current law, a - there's nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution." See here for transcript of his quote and other quotes to that same effect: www.margaretdore.com/info/MT_blewett_transcript167_001.pdf.

Second, SB167 would have imposed Oregon-style assisted suicide on our state. We do not need the "Oregon experience." Oregon's regular suicide rate increased after that state legalized physician-assisted suicide. This is consistent with the idea of a suicide contagion: Normalizing one type of suicide can encourage other different suicides. In other words, suicide begets suicide. Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. We do not need any more.

Third and finally, if anyone would like to help prevent legalization of assisted suicide in Montana, please contact me at montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org.

Thank you.

Bradley D. Williams, coordinator, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, Hamilton

http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_00249c68-8d21-11e0-8e14-001cc4c002e0.html

Suicide Prevention Groups Thank Bradley Williams

Suicide prevention: New media guidelines will save lives
Published in The Missoulian, May 13, 2011 

On behalf of the Missoula Suicide Prevention Network and the Ravalli County Suicide Prevention Alliance, we would like to express our appreciation to Bradley Williams for his letter of April 27, outlining responsible suicide reporting guidelines for the media.

Since that letter was published, new guidelines have been released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The new recommendations were written and endorsed by a task force representing 50 suicide prevention organizations from around the world.

The document reads: “Suicide is a public health issue. Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy. However, the way media cover suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking.” The recommendations can be read at www.ReportingOnSuicide.org.To learn more about suicide in Montana, go to: www.co.missoula.mt.us/healthpromo/

SuicidePrevention or call 258-3881. In a suicide crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Working together we can save lives.

Maureen O’Malley,
Missoula Suicide Prevention Network,
Brian Cherry,
Ravalli County Suicide Prevention Alliance