Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MMA Adopts Helpful Position Statement

The Montana Medical Association's Board of Trustees has adopted a new position statement: Licensing Boards "should not adopt rules that would expand the scope of practice of Montana's licensed health care professionals without first having clear statutory authorization to do so."[1]

Our legal challenges to Position Statement No. 20 include this same reasoning, that Position Statement No. 20 is an invalid expansion of a physician's scope of practice without statutory authority.[2]

We are encouraged to see the Montana Medical Association adopting a similar position. 

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[1]  The MMA's new position statement can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.
[2]  Position Statement No. 20 is subject to two legal challenges by Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS).  The first is a formal petition to the Board of Medical Examiners, to request an actual ruling, which has been denied to date.  That petition can be viewed by clicking here.  The second legal challenge is a petition to the First Judicial Court of Lewis and Clark County setting forth MAAS' substantive arguments.  To view the amended petition, filed on October 12, 2012, click here; to view the attachments to that petition, click here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

MMA Position Statement on Scope of Practice

The Montana Medical Association Bulletin sets forth the following Position Statement adopted by the MMA Board of Trustees on September 7, 2012.  To view a print copy, click here.

Expansion of Scope of Practice by Professional Licensing Boards

The Montana Medical Association recognizes that professional licensing boards authorized by Montana state statutes to license individuals in certain health care professions ("health care licensing boards") have, at times, attempted to and actually have expanded the scope of health care licensees without having the statutory authority to do so. This practice is of concern to medical physicians and other licensed health care professionals.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Citizens Group Challenges BOME Statement on Assisted Suicide

Montana Medical Association Bulletin, Fall 2012.  To see print copy, click here.

Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS) is a grassroots citizens’ group opposed to physician-assisted suicide.  
The American Medical Association (AMA) defines physician-assisted suicide as occurring 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 (e.g., a physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide)." (AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211).  The AMA opposes legalization.  The AMA’s reasons include that legalization “would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” (Id.) 

Our reasons for opposition to physician-assisted suicide include that legalization is a recipe for elder abuse, for example, by an adult child wanting an inheritance who suggests, encourages or coerces his father to request and then take the lethal dose.  In Oregon, other suicides have increased with legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

With this context, MAAS is now engaged in a dual track legal challenge against the Montana Board of Medical Examiners’ Position Statement No. 20, which erroneously implies that assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  In August, we filed a petition for relief in state court.  We have also filed a formal petition with the Board requesting that it declare Position Statement No. 20 invalid.  In the alternative, we have asked that Position Statement No. 20 be repealed.  To learn more, please see our website, www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org

Bradley Williams is the Coordinator for Montanans Against Assisted Suicide.  He can be reached at Bradley@montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org

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Additional information:  The state court petition filed on August 27, 2012 can be viewed here.  The formal petition to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners, mailed to the Board on September 26, 2012, can be viewed here.  The amended state court petition, filed on October 12, 2012, can be viewed here; the attachments to that petition can be viewed here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Laws Against Assisted Suicide are Constitutional

Laws prohibiting assisted suicide in Montana are constitutional under both the US Constitution and the Montana State Constitution.  This is true for three reasons. 

1.  The US Supreme Court Upheld Constitutionality

In 1997, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of a statute prohibiting assisted suicide under the United States Constitution.  In Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 705-6, 117 S.Ct. 2258, 2261 (1997), the Supreme Court stated:

"The question presented . . . is whether Washington's prohibition against 'caus[ing]' or 'aid[ing] a suicide offends the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We hold that it does not."

2.  Montana's Constitution Does Not Include a "Right to Die"

Montana's Constitution was adopted in 1972.  Archived documents show that during the Constitutional Convention, a proposed right to die was considered and rejected.[1]  

With this history, there is no right to die in the Montana Constitution.[2] 

3.  The Montana Supreme Court's Constitutional Ruling

In Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234, 224 P.3d 1211 (2009), the Supreme Court of Montana vacated a district court decision holding that there is a Constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide under the Montana Constitution.[3] The Supreme Court stated:  "The District Court's ruling on the constitutional issues is vacated . . ."[4]

Montana's Constitution Does Not Include a "Right to Die"

By Margaret Dore

In 1972, Montana held its Constitutional Convention.  The Bill of Rights Committee was charged with drafting a declaration of rights to be included in the constitution.  On February 2, 1972, the Committee received "Delegate Proposal 103," which proposed a right to die.[1] 

On February 3, 1972, the Committee held a hearing on the "right to die."[2]  Therein, "Mrs. Joyce Franks presented the theory to the Committee that all persons should be able to choose his own death with dignity."[3]  She also submitted a seven page document titled "Bill of Rights Speech."[4]  In this document, she proposed wording for a constitutional right to die and also discussed her father and the right to die in terms of physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.[5] 

Other persons also submitted testimony.[6]

On February 9, 1972, the Bill of Rights Committee rejected Proposal #103, the "Right to Die."[7]   

On February 12, 1972, Joe Roberts appeared before the Committee in support of the right to die.[8]  His written remarks noted the reason for the Committee's rejection of the right to die, as follows:

"[T]he consensus of the delegates I have talked to indicated that while they were sympathetic to Mrs. Frank's personal tragedy, they were afraid of the implications of stating broadly a Right to Die in the Montana Constitution.[9] 

On March 18, 1972, the Committee's "Declaration of Rights" was adopted by the full convention without the right to die.[10]

Today, the Committee's Declaration of Rights is Article II of the Montana Constitution.[11] 

With this history, there is no right to die in the Montana Constitution: it was proposed; advocated by Mrs. Franks and other persons; and rejected.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dr. David Hafer published in Senior News

I am happy to see that Bradley Williams and Ted Friesen are fighting against Assisted Suicide in our state. As a retired doctor from the state of Montana, I too am concerned over the issue of Physician Assisted Suicide.

First, and most importantly, Physician Assisted Suicide is NOT legal in Montana. The Baxter case far from legalized Assisted Suicide in our state. It merely gave physicians a "possible defense" should they be criminally charged in assisting in the death of on of their patients.

This is not a position any healthcare provider should ever be subject to. The very oath they have taken say they pledge "to do no harm." Doctor’s are often wrong in determining a prognosis for their patient’s demise. Depression is a primary reason that a patient would choose this end, and often that is associated with pain or hopelessness. Pain can be addressed through palliative measures, but as tracked through the Washington and Oregon profile, the treatment of depression is often not addressed.

Allowing Physician Assisted Suicide could position our most vulnerable citizens in a place of abuse by family members or others, that find the care of an infirmed person too much to deal with, or worse yet, would like to benefit financially from the death of that individual. We already have an excessively high occurrence of elder abuse, not to mention our state being one of the highest for suicide. This is the wrong message to send to our populace - that it is okay to have a doctor kill someone for whatever reason.

I hope the citizens of Montana think seriously about where this could lead and remember, we too, could someday be placed in the position of victim.

David Hafer

Ruth Plesner Published in the Senior News

I strongly support the editorials by Bradley Williams and Ted Friesen regarding assisted suicide.  It is sobering to see that where people choose to live can be influenced by where they hope to have the freedom to continue living. 

We need to reject proposals to encourage doctors to practice assisted suicide.  This is not in the public interest for the following reasons:

Assisted suicide can foster elder abuse by allowing heirs to pressure older people to cut their lives short.  It can also allow health care practitioners to steer people toward assisted suicide.[*]  Besides its effects on the elderly and chronically ill, I am very concerned about this death culture and its effect on our young people.  We have a high rate of suicide already, and legalization and/or encouragement of assisted suicide will only make it worse (as it has in Oregon).

We should not encourage assisted suicide in any way.  All of our lives depend on it.

Ruth Plesner, Victor

[*  For more information about suicide steerage, click here to view the affidavit of Dr. Ken Stevens.]

Monday, October 1, 2012

MAAS Requests Ruling From Board, It's About Time

On September 26, 2012, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide submitted a formal petition to the Board of Medical Examiners requesting that the Board rule on Position Statement No. 20.  A hard copy of the petition can be viewed by clicking here.  The petition states in part:

"This matter has been pending before the Board for a year. On May 2, 2012, MAAS filed a formal request to vacate Position Statement No. 20, which implies that assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is legal in Montana, which is not the case. On July 6, 2012, MAAS submitted additional argument to the Board.

MAAS’s grounds for relief were twofold: (1) The Board enacted Position Statement No. 20 without required notice and participation by the public; and (2) the Board lacks statutory, constitutional and/or rulemaking authority to enter such a statement. These grounds for relief are explained in more detail in the materials previously filed with the Board on this issue.