Friday, October 24, 2014

MAAS Demand Letter to People Magazine: "The risk of suicide contagion is real. The potential victims include children."

Dear Editor:

I represent Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS)

People Magazine’s coverage of Brittany Maynard breaks all recommended media guidelines for responsible reporting of suicide. The risk of suicide contagion is real.  The potential victims include children.  

It is well known that media reporting of suicide can encourage other suicides, sometimes called "copycat suicides," or more generally, a "suicide contagion."  A famous example is Marilyn Monroe, whose suicide death led to a suicide spike.

This encouragement phenomenon can also occur when the inspiring death is not a suicide.  An example is the televised hanging of Saddam Hussein, which led to suicide deaths of children worldwide. An NBC News article begins:    
The boys' deaths - scattered in the United States, in Yemen, in Turkey and elsewhere in seemingly isolated horror - had one thing in common:  They hanged themselves after watching televised images of Saddam Hussein's execution.
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/16624940/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/copycat-hangings-follow-saddam-execution/#.VDr5AfldWS

Your coverage of Brittany Maynard is, of course, exponentially more intense and of broader range than that of Marilyn Monroe or Saddam Hussein.

As a major media organization, you are expected to be familiar with recommended guidelines for the responsible reporting of suicide. Important points include that the risk of additional suicides increases "when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage."  See http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/recommendations-for-reporting-on-suicide.shtml

Your coverage of Brittany Maynard's upcoming death violates all of these guidelines.  We are told of the planned method, when and where it will take place and who will be there.  There is repeated extensive coverage in multiple media.  Your website says that the story has gone "viral."

Meanwhile, People Magazine, in grocery stores everywhere, with children in line, glorifies Ms. Maynard's upcoming death.  Her photo is on the cover; she's beautiful and now she's one of your celebrities. In big white letters, there is this headline: "My Decision to Die." There are also these words, also in white, simple enough for a child to understand: "Why Brittany Maynard, 29, plans to end her life in less that three weeks."

According to your publication, Ms. Maynard is going to kill herself, and if you don't do something to change this suicide promotion trajectory, so will many other people.

Now you can write me back, and say, "Oh, but Ms. Maynard's not suicidal, it's different."
                   
Saddam Hussein wasn't suicidal and it wasn't different. Those boys died.

My client, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, hereby demands the following:
1.  That you immediately cease and desist your suicide promotion activity, which means removing all glorifying content from your website, grocery stores, wherever;
                                                    
2.  That you immediately add suicide prevention content to your publications, including  where to call for help; and
3.  That you in no shape or form promote Ms. Maynard's suicide if and when it occurs.
People Magazine celebrates the heroes among us.  It's time for People Magazine to show its integrity by this time being the hero among us to stop the contagion.

Sincerely,

Margaret Dore,
Attorney for Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS)

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New York man hired to assist suicide sentenced to 12 years


By Laila Kearney 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man convicted of helping a debt-ridden motivational speaker commit suicide to make the death look like a robbery was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Monday, prosecutors said.

Kenneth Minor, 42, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month in the stabbing death of Jeffrey Locker in 2009, a spokeswoman with the Manhattan District Attorney's office said.

Locker, a 52-year-old motivational speaker, hired Minor to help him kill himself and make it look like a robbery so his family could collect life insurance payouts, prosecutors said.

Locker, who lived in suburban Long Island, New York, was deeply in debt and had taken out millions of dollars in insurance policies, they said.

Minor claimed he held a knife steady against a steering wheel in a car parked in Harlem while Locker repeatedly thrust himself onto the blade.

Minor was first convicted in 2011 of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years to life, but a state appeals court order a retrial on grounds that the original judge improperly limited his use of an assisted suicide defense.

Defense attorney Daniel Gotlin said his client took the plea deal in state Supreme Court in Manhattan but he planned to appeal the new conviction.

Under New York law, assisted suicide is illegal and is considered manslaughter but can be used as a defense against stiffer murder charges.

"It's a ridiculous theory that you could have both cases tried together," Gotlin said.

Minor has already served five years of his prison sentence, Gotlin said.

The district attorney's office declined to comment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Oregon and Washington, doctor could have closed the deal with a lethal prescription - who would have known?

Doctor wrote himself into 102-year-old patient's will: suit

http://nypost.com/2014/10/16/doctor-wrote-himself-into-102-year-old-patients-will-suit/

A prominent New York doctor swindled a 102-year-old Park Avenue patient, writing himself into her will and installing health care aides who mistreat the widow, a new lawsuit charges.

Donna Spears, a longtime friend of centenarian Helen Schlesinger, claims in her Manhattan civil suit that New York-Presbyterian physician Dr. Lawson Moyer has broken the law by both treating the 470 Park Ave. resident and appointing himself as her power of attorney.

“Moyer is making decisions for Helen that are not in her best interests,” Spears says in the suit.

Spears, of Wall Township, NJ, says she has known Schlesinger for 65 years. The frail woman, whose husband died in the 1950s, cannot get around on her own and requires 24-hour care.

In a 2003 will, Spears and a family member were designated to inherit the woman’s entire multimillion-dollar estate — save for a $10,000 bequest to the Salvation Army.

But shortly after Moyer became Schlesinger’s primary care doctor in 2010, the suit says, Schlesinger signed a new document “against [her] wishes” that left him $100,000, slashed Spears’ share to $25,000 and gave the rest to various charities.

Spears says Moyer hired nurses who have neglected and mentally abused the childless widow.

Spears wants a judge to appoint a guardian for Schlesinger.


Moyer did not return calls for comment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What will happen to Brittany Maynard?

By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

The suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, is running a public relations campaign featuring the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman with a brain tumor.  According to media reports, she intends to take her life under Oregon's assisted suicide law in the near future.[1]

Lovelle Svart

In 2007, there was a similar case in Oregon involving Lovelle Svart, which was also promoted by Compassion & Choices.  Svart, who had cancer, died at the end of a party in which she had been having a great time.  The party was reported in the Seattle Times, which described her as being in control.[2]  When it was time for her to die, however, she engaged in stalling behaviors ("a hugging line" and a cigarette break).  There was also this exchange between her and George Eighmey, a member of Compassion & Choices:
“Is this what you want?”
 “Actually, I’d like to go on partying,” Lovelle replied, laughing before turning serious. "But yes." 
The situation was similar to a wedding when it’s time to take your vows.  Everyone is watching and it's the thing to do.  Even if you're having second thoughts or would rather “go on partying,” you go forward.  If Eighmey had wanted to give her an out, he could have said:
“You're having so much fun, you don’t have to do this today or even next week.”
Instead, he closed her by guiding her to take the lethal dose, which killed her.

Will Ms. Maynard get her choice?

It may be hard to know.

Compassion & Choices, regardless, will have an interest in getting the best promotional material possible from her death.

* * *

[1]  Neal Colgrass, Newser staff, October 7, 2014, https://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/29-year-old-woman_-why-im-taking-my-own-life.pdf 
[2] Don Colburn, “Last day of life all planned out, down to the polka,” October 26, 2007, available at http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2003918100_suicide02.html

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"This is how society will pay you back? With non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia?"

I am a lawyer in Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal. Our law was passed by a deceptive ballot measure spearheaded by Compassion & Choices. Voters were promised that only the patient would be allowed to administer the lethal dose, which is false. Our law does say that the patient may self-administer the lethal dose, but there is no language saying that administration must be by self-administration. For more information, please go here:  https://www.kcba.org/newsevents/barbulletin/BView.aspx?Month=05&Year=2009&AID=article5.htm
Once assisted suicide is legal, there is pressure to expand. For example, here in Washington State, we have had “trial balloon” proposals to expand our law to non-terminal people. For me, the most disturbing one was a casual discussion in our largest paper suggesting euthanasia for people who didn’t save enough money for their old age. So, if you worked hard all your life, paid your taxes, and your pension plan went broke, this is how society will pay you back? With non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia?
To view a copy of the newspaper column, please go here: https://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/jerry-large_001.pdf.
Protect yourselves and your families. Don’t let assisted suicide become legal in Montana.
Margaret Dore, president,
Choice is an Illusion,
Seattle, Washington

Monday, October 6, 2014

Assisters Can Have Their Own Agenda

http://ravallirepublic.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_d9ec8917-b025-5aad-97dd-0520559fde00.html

Greed, personal motives can influence 'choice' to commit assisted suicide . . .

A Roundup man was recently charged with “aiding or soliciting suicide” of a 16-year-old girl here in Montana. His apparent motive was to prevent her testimony against him in another matter, i.e., by getting her to kill herself. According to an Associate Press article, he coerced her to actually take steps towards that goal, which fortunately did not result in her death. See http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/convicted-rapist-charged-with-aiding-or-soliciting-suicide-of-victim/article_65c2f39c-ae01-5104-a279-da45b352ef42.html

Similarly, in Minnesota, a former nurse was recently convicted of assisting a young man to kill himself. Both the nurse and the Roundup man had used webcams to communicate with their victims. The nurse’s reported motive was the “thrill of the chase.” See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/suicideobsessed-us-nurse-convicted-of-helping-coventry-man-kill-himself-9722534.html.

These stories illustrates a fundamental problem with legalizing assisted suicide. The assisting person can have his or her own agenda to encourage a person to kill themselves. The “choice” will not necessarily be that of the victim/patient.

In my practice, where I have a high percentage of older patients, I have witnessed greed by family members over inheritances, including vicious battles over the death bed. This same motive of greed could lead to a coerced suicide, especially if assisted suicide were legalized in our state.

Let’s keep legal assisted suicide out of Montana.

Annie Bukacek,
Kalispell

Friday, October 3, 2014

Margaret Dore published in the Baltimore Sun

The letter below, published in the Baltimore Sun, describes the positive statistical correlation between legalizing physician-assisted suicide and the significant increase in other "regular" suicides in Oregon.  This is at great financial cost to that state.

For more detail and links to supporting documentation, please see: Letter from Margaret Dore to Members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, March 4, 2014, titled:  "The High Financial Cost of (Regular) Suicide."

* * *

The published letter:  Margaret Dore," Legalizing assisted suicide is a bad idea."

Alexa Fraser's recent commentary promotes the idea of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. . . .

The term "physician-assisted suicide" means that a physician provides the means or information to enable a patient to perform a life-ending act, such as through a lethal prescription.

The premise of Ms. Fraser's commentary is that legalization of physician-assisted suicide will eliminate other types of suicides, such as those resulting from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

This premise is not, however, supported by statistics from Oregon, which is the only state in which physician-assisted suicide has been legal long enough to have valid statistics over time.

The Oregon statistics support the conclusion that, if anything, "ordinary" suicides will actually increase if physician-assisted suicide were legalized in Maryland.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The perils of assisted suicide

I dispute commentator Alexa Fraser's claim that assisted suicide is legal in Montana. ("Political candidates should debate the right to die," Sept. 28),

I am president of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, and we are in litigation against the Montana Medical Examiners Board over the status of assisted suicide in our state. MAAS is also seeking to overturn Montana's Baxter case, which gives doctors who assist a suicide a potential defense to a charge of homicide.

In Montana there was a recent case in which a man was charged with "aiding or soliciting" the suicide of a 16-year-old girl. He is accused of trying to prevent her from testifying against him in another matter by getting her to kill herself.

This story illustrates a fundamental problem with legalizing assisted suicide. The assistant can have his or her own agenda to encourage someone to kill themselves.

Bradley D. Williams, Hamilton, Mont.