Friday, August 31, 2012

New England Journal of Medicine Article Misleading

Dear Editor:

I am a lawyer in Washington State, one of two states where assisted-suicide is legal.  The other state is Oregon, which has a similar law.  Lisa Lehmann's article, "Redefining Physicians' Role in Assisted Dying," is misleading regarding how these laws work.

First, the Oregon and Washington laws are not limited to people in their "final months" of life.[1,2]  Consider for example, Jeanette Hall, who in 2000 was persuaded by her doctor to be treated rather than use Oregon's law.  She is alive today, twelve years later.[3]

Second, these laws are not "safe" for patients.[4][5]  For example, neither law requires a witness at the death.  Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for the patient's heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?  

Third, the fact that persons using Oregon's law are "more financially secure" than the general population is consistent with elder financial abuse, not patient safety.  Do not be deceived. 

* * *

[1]  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, available at
[2]  Kenneth Stevens, MD, Letter to the Editor, "Oregon mistake costs lives," The Advocate, official publication of the Idaho State Bar, Vol. 52, No. 9, pages 16-17, September 2010, available at 
[3]  Ms. Hall corresponded with me on July 13, 2012.
[4]  See article at note 1.  See also Margaret Dore, "Death with Dignity": A Recipe for Elder Abuse and Homicide (Albeit Not by Name)," at 11 Marquette Elder's Advisor 387 (Spring 2010), original and updated version available at 
[5]  Blum, B. and Eth, S.  "Forensic Issues: Geriatric Psychiatry." InKaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, Seventh Edition, B. Sadock and V. Sadock editors.  Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, pp. 3150-3158, 2000. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Support of assisted suicide questioned   Burlington Free Press , 4:03 PM, Aug 20, 2012   |

I would like to commend T.J. Donovan for recognizing the need to enforce the law against those committing physical and financial abuse against the elderly and other vulnerable people. However, according to the Burlington Free Press coverage of the attorney general candidates (Aug. 8), T.J. also supports passage of doctor-prescribed suicide legislation.

My question is this: If an elderly woman can be bullied into turning over her social security check, why doesn't Donovan understand that it is possible to pressure her into making a request for a lethal dose and bullying her into taking it?



Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Any change to the law must be a matter for Parliament to decide"

Below is a media release from the Judiciary of England   and Wales regarding today's decision to reject a legal challenge to a legal prohibition on euthanasia.  "[A]ny change to the law must be a matter for Parliament to decide."  To read the original print version, click here.

Tony Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice
AM v Director of Public Prosecutions and others
High Court (Administrative Court)
16 August 2012


The High Court (Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur) has today rejected challenges to the legal ban on voluntary euthanasia, and to the policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions in cases of assisted dying, brought by two men suffering from “locked in syndrome”.

The Court recognised that the cases raise profoundly difficult ethical, social and legal issues, but it judged that any change to the law must be a matter for Parliament to decide.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Users of Assisted Suicide are Seniors with Money

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

Users of assisteds suicide are "overwhelmingly white, well educated and financially comfortable."[1]  They are also age 65 and older.[2]  In other words, users are older people with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately at risk of financial abuse and exploitation.[3]  

In the United States, elder financial abuse costs elders an estimated $2.9 billion per year.[4]  Perpetrators include strangers, family members and friends.[5].  The goals of financial abuse perpetrators are achieved "through deceit, threats, and emotional manipulation of the elder."[6]

The Oregon and Washington assisted suicide acts, and the similar Massachusetts proposal, do not protect users from this abuse. Indeed, the terms of these acts encourage abuse.  These acts allow heirs and other persons who will benefit from an elder's death to actively participate in his or her lethal dose request.[7]  There is also no oversight when the lethal dose is administered, not even a witness is required.[8]  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the person's death, to administer the lethal dose to that person without his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?

For more information about problems with the Massachusetts' proposal, click here and here.  For a "fact check" on the proposal, click here.

* * * [1]  Katie Hafner, "In Ill Doctor, a Surprise Reflection of Who Picks Assisted Suicide," New York Times, August 11, 2012.
[2]  See e.g., the most current official report from Oregon, "Oregon Death with Dignity Act--2011" ("Of the 71 DWDA deaths during 2011, most (69.0%) were aged 65 years or older; the median age was 70 years"), available at
[3]  The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, "Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America's Elders," June 2011 (a follow up to MetLife's 2009 "Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances"), available at
[4]  Id., page 2, key findings  
[5]  Id.
[6]  Id., page 3.
[7]  See Memo to Joint Judiciary Committee (regarding Bill H.3884, now ballot measure No. 2), Section III.A.2. ("Someone else is allowed to speak for the patient"), available at
[8]  See above memo at Section III.A.1("No witnesses at the death").  See also entire proposed Massachusetts Act at

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Virginia: Assisted Suicide Conviction 

Ex-Navy sailor from Willits convicted in assisted suicide

Paul Stephen Bricker, 27, had pleaded guilty April 4 to voluntary manslaughter in the July 2009 death of Gerard Curran in Virginia Beach. Bricker, a petty officer second class at the time, testified that Curran said he was ill and asked him to help him commit suicide and make it appear to be a homicide so his family would receive Navy death benefits, the newspaper reported.

Curran, 45, who was having marital and alcohol-related problems, previously had attempted to stab himself in the chest, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
On the day of his death, he choked himself with a yellow physical therapy band. When he passed out, Bricker stabbed him in the chest.

Bricker was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison, but the judge suspended five, according to the Virginian-Pilot.