Friday, November 25, 2011

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

In Montana, there is a proposal before the Montana Medical Examiner Board to provide rules or a position paper on assisted suicide.  Below is the response of Bradley D. Williams, Coordinator of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide & For Living with Dignity.
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Regulations governing the Board of Medical Examiners demonstrate that its purpose is to protect the public, NOT doctors.  ARM 24.1.101 (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 following 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