Monday, April 29, 2013

Vote NO on S.77, A Legal Analysis

Updated May 8, 2013
Dear Vermont Legislator:

This letter provides a legal analysis of the assisted suicide bill, S.77.  To view my memo containing that analysis, click here.  To view the memo's attachments, which include a copy of S.77, click here.

The memo's main points include:

1.  The bill is not limited to people who are dying.  Some of the people at issue will have years to live.  The bill encourages such persons to throw away their lives.

2.  The claim that the bill will assure patient control is untrue.

3.  There is a complete lack of oversight over administration of the lethal dose, which allows it to be administered without patient consent (and without anyone knowing that administration was without patient consent).

4.  The application process has problems:  (1) an heir who will benefit from death is allowed to talk for the patient during the lethal dose request process; and (2) there is nothing to prevent an heir from procuring the patient's signature under circumstances that would constitute undue influence in the context of a will. 

5.  Legalization will create new paths of elder abuse.  I give the example of Thomas Middleton in Oregon.

6.  Guardians and Conservators will not be able to protect their wards from being pushed to suicide and/or other involuntary death.

7.  Legalization will bring stress, trauma and fear (with examples from Oregon and Washington).

8.  In Washington, where we have now had legal assisted suicide for just four years, we have already had proposals to expand our law to direct euthanasia of non-terminal people.  There has also been the the suggestion that we should employ euthanasia as a solution for people who can't afford their own care, which would be involuntary euthanasia.

9.  Any claim that legalization will end murder-suicide and/or violent suicides is baloney.

Margaret Dore
Law Offices of Margaret K. Dore, P.S.
www.margaretdore.com
www.choiceillusion.org
1001 4th Avenue, 44th Floor
Seattle, WA  98154
206 389 1754
206 389 1562 direct line 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vermont: Vote "NO" on S.77

I am a lawyer and a Democrat from Washington State where assisted suicide is legal.  I hope that you will vote "No" on S.77, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide.

 In 2011, I published an article in the Vermont Bar Journal, titled "Physician-Assisted Suicide:  A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Personal Choice."  A copy can be viewed here:   http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dore-vermont-bar-journal.pdf   

The flaws that I identified in the above article are present in S.77, with the most obvious being a complete lack of oversight over administration of the lethal dose.  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the dose to the patient without his consent.  For example, when the patient is asleep (the drugs used are water and alcohol soluble so that they can be injected).

You may also be interested in the following: 

1.  A Legal Analysis

Two years ago, I performed a legal analysis of H.274 and S.103, which are essentially the same bill as the current S.77.  The flaws I identified in my analysis also exist in S.77 although some of the wording and citations are different.  To view that analysis, go here:  http://www.vermontagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/legal-analysis-of-h274-s103.html 

2.  The Thomas Middleton case

This is a case from Oregon in which physician-assisted suicide was part of an elder abuse fraud. See

3.  My cases

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, the parent reportedly refused to take the lethal dose at his first suicide party ("I'm going to bed.  You're not killing me") and was high on alcohol the next night when he took the dose at a second party.  The person who told this to my client then recanted, apparently concerned about his own criminal liability.  My client did not want to pursue the matter further.  As a lawyer, I couldn't help but notice that if the parent's much younger wife had divorced him, he would have got the house.  This way, she got everything. 
 

4.  Washington's "Expansion" Issue

In 2009, our assisted suicide law went into effect.  By 2011, there were newspaper proposals to expand that law to direct euthanasia for non-terminal persons.  In 2012, a friend sent me this article suggesting euthanasia for people unable to afford their own care, which would be involuntary euthanasia.  See Jerry Large, "Planning for old age at a premium," The Seattle Times, March 8, 2012, at  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/text/2017693023.html ("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). 

Don't make our mistake.

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 USA
206 389 1754 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Protect Health Care; Keep Assisted Suicide Out of Montana

http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_03dfa5e3-26fa-588f-8765-b85fc6f81622.html?comment_form=true


April 22, 2013

I was disturbed to see the (April 7) opinion by Eric Kress promoting physician-assisted suicide. I am a cancer doctor with more than 40 years experience in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. I am also a professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Oregon Health and Science University.

I first became involved with the assisted-suicide issue shortly before my first wife died of cancer in 1982. We had just made what would be her last visit with her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication. I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.”

In Oregon, the combination of assisted suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid). First, there is a financial incentive for patients to commit suicide: the plan will cover the cost. Second, the plan will not necessarily cover the cost of treatment due to statistical criteria. For example, patients with cancer are denied treatment if they are determined to have “less than 24 months median survival with treatment” and fit other criteria. Some of these patients, if treated, would however have many years to live, as much as five, 10 or 20 years depending on the type of cancer. This is because there are always some people who beat the odds. The plan will cover the cost of their suicides.

In Oregon, the mere presence of legal assisted-suicide steers patients to suicide even when there is no coverage issue. One of my patients was adamant she would use the law. I convinced her to be treated instead. Twelve years later she is thrilled to be alive.

Don’t make Oregon’s mistake.

Kenneth Stevens, MD,
Sherwood, Ore.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Montana: Great News! HB 505 Voted to the Floor!!!!


This afternoon, the Montana Senate "blasted" HB 505 to the floor in a 31 to 17 Vote!!!!
Thank you to Bradley Williams and everyone else in Montana who worked so hard to get us this far!!!

Yeah!!!!!

Margaret Dore

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 http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/text/2017693023.html ("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.  http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2012/07/dear-montana-board-of-medical-examiners.html

Montana

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 http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/schrempp_wonderly_opn_ltr1.pdf 

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 http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2013/03/i-support-house-bill-505-which-clearly.html  

Last month in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a doctor described his assisting three suicides in Montana.  See http://www.greatfallstribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303260026 

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
www.margaretdore.com
www.choiceillusion.org
1001 4th Avenue, 44th Floor
Seattle, WA 98154