Friday, June 7, 2013

Beware of Vultures

"[I]t seems odd that the top lobby spender in Montana this year was Compassion and Choices, a 'nonprofit' group that spent $160,356 advocating for legalization of assisted suicide."
By Senator Jennifer Fielder

As we wrangled through the budget this spring, the beautiful state capitol began to feel like a big, ripe carcass with a dark cloud of vultures circling about. 
Senator Jennifer Fielder

The magnitude of money in government attracts far more folks who want to be on the receiving end than it does those who just want fair and functional government. Until that ratio improves, it may be impossible to rein in unnecessary regulation and spending. 

Special interest groups spent over $6 million dollars on lobbyists to pressure Montana legislators during the 2013 session. Seems like a lot of money, until you compare it to the billions of taxpayer dollars at stake. Does the average taxpayer stand a chance against organized forces like that?

As your Senator one of my main duties is to sort out who wants your money, or a change in a law, and why. Getting to the bottom of it takes work. It would certainly help if well-intentioned citizens would do a little more research before clamoring onto any particular bandwagons as well.

We have to be careful not to be fooled by catchy slogans, shallow campaign propaganda, biased media reports, or plays on our emotions which, too often, conceal a multitude of hidden agendas. 

For example, it seems odd that the top lobby spender in Montana this year was Compassion and Choices, a “nonprofit” group that spent $160,356 advocating for legalization of assisted suicide. The second biggest spender was MEA-MFT, the teachers and public employees union who spent $120,319 pushing for state budget increases.

I earned a reputation for asking a lot of questions. I certainly didn’t take this job to rubber stamp anything. It's my duty to determine whether a proposal relates to an essential, necessary service of fair and functional government, or if it is motivated by piles of money to be gained from ill-advised government decisions.

You see, there is so much money in government that almost everything in government is about the money. The usual tactic is to disguise a ploy as “the humane thing to do”. . . .

Some groups work very hard to provide factual information about their issue. Others stoop to the lowest of lows to invoke heart wrenching emotions, twisted half-truths, or outright lies. You really have to look carefully for all the angles.

Assisted suicide is another issue that can be highly emotional. There are deep and valid concerns on both sides of this life and death debate. But I found myself wondering, “Where does all the lobby money come from?” If it really is about a few terminally ill people who might seek help ending their suffering, why was more money spent on promoting assisted suicide than any other issue in Montana?

Could it be that convincing an ill person to end their life early will help health insurance companies save a bundle on what would have been ongoing medical treatment? How much would the government gain if it stopped paying social security, Medicare, or Medicaid on thousands of people a few months early? How much financial relief would pension systems see? Why was the proposed law to legalize assisted suicide [SB 220] written so loosely? Would vulnerable old people be encouraged to end their life unnecessarily early by those seeking financial gain? 

When considering the financial aspects of assisted suicide, it is clear that millions, maybe billions of dollars, are intertwined with the issue being marketed as “Compassion and Choices”. Beware.

Public issues are not easy, and they are not always about money. But often times they are. If we want fair and functional government, we need to look deeper than most people are willing to look.. . .

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Published as Communication from Your State Senator, "Beware of Vultures," by Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder, Sanders County Ledger,, page 2, 6-4-13. Senator Fielder lives in Thompson Falls MT, representing Montana State Senate District 7.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Maine House Says No to Physician-Assisted Suicide (95-43)
Posted May 31, 2013, at 3 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House on Friday rejected a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to order lethal doses of medication from their doctors. The bill also would free doctors from legal liability for helping to end a consenting patient’s life.

House members voted 95-43 against the measure, which is sponsored by Rep. Joseph Brooks, an independent from Winterport. The bill next heads to the Senate.

Brooks’ bill, LD 1065, would allow a patient and his or her doctor to sign companion end-of-life care agreements. Those agreements would be signed after the two have discussed the patient’s medical condition and treatment options and the patient has rejected life-extending treatments and agreed to accept “care that is ordered or delivered by the physician that may hasten or bring about the patient’s death.”

The bill also would free doctors from criminal liability or the possibility of professional discipline for helping a consenting patient end his or her life.

The vote followed an emotional debate on the House floor in which lawmakers described their experiences caring for parents and friends as their lives ended.

Brooks said ill patients should be able to decide to end their lives when they can die in dignity.

“Dignity was important to this mill laborer,” he said of his father. “Had he been aware that he was lying in a hospital bed in the living room of his home not in control of anything, he would have probably said, ‘Please help me with this.’”

“How many of us have lost or seen others lose loved ones who linger painfully and unnecessarily for long periods?” asked Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick. “We treat ill pets more humanely than we treat ill parents.”

But in letting doctors administer lethal doses of medication, the assisted-suicide bill would go too far, said Rep. Ann Dorney, D-Norridgewock. End-of-life care has changed for the better in recent years, said Dorney, a physician.

“We have very good end-of-life care. We have very good hospice care. We have very good palliative care,” she said. “I guess I’m not sure we need this bill.”

Dorney also worried about the prospect of a guardian who makes medical decisions for a patient making the decision to end that patient’s life.

Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, said she wouldn’t want to rob a patient of a natural end to life.

“I sat with my mom the last five days of her life. I slept in a wheelchair by her bed,” Sanderson said. “The night before my mother passed, my mother said, ‘It’s not like what I thought it would be.’ She said, ‘It’s peaceful.’ And I was very glad to hear that.”

The Maine House’s rejection of the physician-assisted suicide legislation came more than a week after Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a similar measure into law in that state. Vermont’s law was the first in the nation to be approved through the legislative process.

Physician-assisted suicide measures on the books in Oregon and Washington passed through public votes.

In Maine, voters rejected a physician-assisted suicide ballot measure in 1990. printed on June 2, 2013