Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Once in place, this 'trend' is not controllable"

Dear Senators:

For those of you who don't know me, I am an attorney in Washington state where physician-assisted suicide is legal. I am writing to urge you to not make Washington's mistake by allowing assisted suicide/euthanasia to become part of your state's legal fabric.  Once in place, this "trend" is not controllable.  I urge you to vote "Yes" on HB 505 to clearly state that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana. 

In 2008, we voted for a law to legalize assisted suicide for persons predicted to have less than six months to live.  Voters were promised that "only" the patient could take the lethal dose.  Our law does not say that anywhere.  By 2011, there were newspaper proposals to expand our law to direct euthanasia for non-terminal persons.  Last year, a friend sent me this article in our largest paper suggesting euthanasia for people unable to afford their own care, which would be involuntary euthanasia.  See ("After Monday's column,  . . . a few [readers] suggested that if you couldn't save enough money to see you through your old age, you shouldn't expect society to bail you out.  At least a couple mentioned euthanasia as a solution.")  (Emphasis added).

In my law practice, I have had two clients whose parents signed up for the lethal dose.

In one case, one side of the family wanted the parent to take the lethal dose while the other did not.  The parent spent the last  months of his life traumatized and/or struggling over the decision of whether or not to kill himself.  My client was also traumatized.  The parent did not take the lethal dose and died a natural death

In the other case, it's unclear that the parent's death was voluntary.  This was due to his reportedly refusing to take the lethal dose at his first suicide party and then being high on alcohol the next night when he drank the dose at a second party.  (The person who told this to my client recanted).  But, as a lawyer who has worked on divorce cases, I couldn't help but notice that if the parent's much younger wife had divorced him, the parent would have got the house.  This way, the surviving wife got everything. 

Meanwhile, my friends who provide elder care report that they now have to "guard" their clients in the hospital to avoid the initiation of "comfort care" (morphine overdose and the sudden death of the client).   See e.g.


In Montana, you have had similar developments.  In 2007, the Baxter case was initiated seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide for "terminally ill adult patients," the implication being that the practice would be limited to dying people.  The proposed definition of "terminally ill adult patient," however, was broad enough to include an otherwise healthy 18 year old dependent on insulin.  See 

In late 2009, the Baxter opinion was issued in your Supreme Court ruling that doctors who assist a suicide in certain narrowly defined circumstances have a defense to prosecution if charged with homicide.  Since then, I have been contacted by several Montanans describing the misuse or abuse of "comfort care" against their loved ones.  Three of these persons have specifically endorsed HB 505, see for example, this letter by Carol Mungas, the widow of a prominent physician who was euthanized by nurses against his will.  See  

Last month in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a doctor described his assisting three suicides in Montana.  See 

If he is not prosecuted, or if the prosecution fails, assisted suicides will thereby be encouraged and, given Washington's experience, there will be a push to expand the practice to less compelling cases, for example, persons with treatable diabetes.  If, instead, HB 505 is enacted, there will be a clear statement going forward that assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.

This is why HB 505 is needed now.

Thank you for your consideration.

Margaret Dore
Law Offices of Margaret K. Dore, P.S.
Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation
1001 4th Avenue, 44th Floor
Seattle, WA 98154