Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts

Friday, June 12, 2020

Massachusetts: Assisted Suicide Bill Timing "Wrong"

To view full press release on Not Dead Yet, click here.                   


John Kelly
Second Thoughts Massachusetts issues the following statement in opposition to the favorable report given by the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health to Bill S. 2745, legislation that would legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts.
Assisted suicide legislation sends a message of ‘better dead than disabled’ while completely immunizing doctors, heirs, and caregivers who can encourage or even engineer a person’s death without fear of prosecution,” said Second Thoughts Director John B. Kelly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Massachusetts Euthanasia Bills Have Reportedly Moved Out of Committee

State House
According to unconfirmed sources, the Massachusetts "End of Life Options Act," seeking to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, has advanced out of the Joint Committee on Public Health to the Healthcare Finance Committee (S. 1208/H. 1926).

To learn more about problems with the Act, please see the legal/policy analysis below. If you have further information as to the exact status of the bills, please write me at margaretdore@nmargaretdore.com Thank you.

Margaret Dore, Esq.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Prosecutors argue why Michelle Carter's texting suicide conviction should not be overturned

Michelle Carter
To view full article, click here

Bristol County Prosecutors have filed their response to the appeal of Michelle Carter, arguing that the Plainville woman was rightfully convicted of involuntary manslaughter for pressuring her boyfriend Conrad Roy III into killing himself.

Roy died in 2014 after he turned on a gas-powered water pump in his truck and allowed the cabin to fill with carbon monoxide, following a lengthy battle with depression.

But police found text messages on Carter's phone that led them to believe it was no simple suicide.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Massachusetts: Michelle Carter Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter Due to Assisting Suicide

Conrad Roy III
NPR  A Massachusetts judge has found Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter after, prosecutors say, the then-teenager sent a fellow teenager text messages that urged him to commit suicide.

Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz decided the case, which Carter had opted to be heard by a judge rather than a jury. Even before Moniz read his verdict Friday, Carter, 20, was weeping and holding a tissue in the courtroom. The judge agreed with prosecutors that Carter's "wanton and reckless conduct" had resulted in the death of Conrad Roy III.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Massachusetts Assisted Suicide Bill Dies in Committee!

From Second Thoughts, Massachusetts, People with Disabilities Opposing the Legalization of Assisted Suicide:

Today, the Joint Committee on Public Health, of the Massachusetts Legislature, "declined to advance H.1999 the latest assisted suicide bill, H 1991, euphemistically titled 'An act affirming a terminally ill patient's right to compassionate aid in dying.' Disability rights advocates, along with representatives from medicine and members of the public, testified and lobbied against the bill."

The written testimony of Margaret Dore, president of Choice is an Illusion, is summarized below:
H.1991 is similar to Ballot Question 2, which was defeated by a vote of the people in 2012. This memo and its attachments discuss why H.1991 is a recipe for elder abuse. Passage will also cause family trauma, and encourage people with years to live to throw away their lives....  Even if you are for the concept of assisted suicide, H.1991 is the wrong bill.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this defeat possible!

Please consider a generous donation to Second ThoughtsChoice is an Illusion or your local group fighting against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

We are need your support!

Choice is an Illusion

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Persons Living with HIV/AIDS: Is This What You Want?

By Margaret Dore, Esq

This is an updated version of an article I wrote three years ago in response to HIV/AIDS groups that had endorsed Ballot Question 2, seeking to legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts. The ballot question failed, but there is now a similar proposal pending in the Massachusetts legislature (H.1991). I suggest that these groups and persons living with HIV/AIDS give the new proposal a close look. 

1.  "Terminal" does not mean dying. 

H.1991 applies to persons with a "terminal illness," defined in terms of less than six months to live with or without treatment.[1] 

In the 1980's, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Today, we have people living with HIV/AIDS, who do well, but who are dependent on treatment to live. Some of these persons are "terminal" under H.1991, i.e., if, without treatment, they "can reasonably be expected to die within 6 months."[2] 

2.  The significance of a terminal label.

Once a person is labeled "terminal," an easy justification can be made that his or her treatment should be denied in favor of someone more deserving. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, "terminal" patients have not only been denied treatment, they have been offered assisted suicide instead. In a 2012 affidavit, Oregon doctor Kenneth Stevens put it this way:
Under the Oregon Health Plan [Medicaid], there is . . .  a financial incentive towards suicide because the Plan will not necessarily pay for a patient’s treatment. For example, patients with cancer are denied treatment if they have a "less than [two years] median survival with treatment" and fit other criteria. . . . 
All such persons . . .  will . . . be denied treatment. Their suicides under Oregon’s assisted suicide act will be covered."[3]
He also noted that some persons denied treatment as "terminal" would, if treated, in fact have years, even decades, to live. He stated: 
Some of the patients living longer than two years will likely live far longer than two years, as much as five, ten or twenty years depending on the type of cancer. This is because there are always some people who beat the odds.[4] 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Massachusetts: High School Student Charged with Manslaughter for Encouraging Suicide


BY JIM HAND SUN CHRONICLE STAFF | Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015 1:00 am
PLAINVILLE  A King Philip Regional High School senior has been indicted for involuntary manslaughter, allegedly for urging a friend to commit suicide. She then raised money for mental illness in the name of her friend.
Michelle Carter, 18, of Plainville was indicted as a “youthful offender” by a Bristol County grand jury, and was arraigned in New Bedford Juvenile Court.
She is accused of urging Conrad Roy III, 18, of Fairhaven and Mattapoisett to kill himself, which he did while idling a truck last July in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart. Authorities said he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mass: Inclusion Key in anti suicide drive

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/nov/14/inclusion-key-in-anti-suicide-drive/#disqus_thread

By Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, November 14, 2012

The anti-euthanasia movement found new life last week after voters in Massachusetts defied the conventional wisdom by rejecting a physician-assisted suicide initiative.

In a setback for the “aid in dying” movement, Question 2, known as the Death With Dignity initiative, lost by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent after leading by 68-to-20 in a poll released in early September by the Boston Globe.

The turnaround came after the “No on 2” camp fractured the liberal coalition that approved similar measures in Oregon and Washington by building a diverse campaign of religious leaders, medical professionals and advocates for the disabled along with a few prominent Democrats and a member of the Kennedy clan.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Massachusetts: Support withered for assisted-suicide ballot question



Over the next month, that support steadily eroded, and on Election Day the measure failed by a razor-thin 51-49 percent margin. 

How did a proposal that seemed sure to pass just five weeks before the election come up short? 

Joseph Baerlein, president of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, who handled public relations for the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, said the measure's opponents had to convince voters who supported the idea of assisted suicide that the bill before them was flawed. 

"We focused our campaign strategy on looking at those weaknesses," said Baerlein. "For us to have a chance to win, we would have to have some amount of voters who felt it was their right take another look, so they would see that this wasn't the right way to do it."

The Death with Dignity Act, or Question 2, mirrored legislation passed in Oregon and Washington state.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Those who are not dying can be lured to assisted suicide

http://bostonglobe.com/opinion/letters/2012/11/02/those-who-are-not-dying-can-lured-assisted-suicide/mYhNV8k6hWseAFwSxdCnIL/story.html

I am a cancer doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Oregon's assisted-suicide law applies to patients predicted to have less than six months to live. This does not necessarily mean that such patients are dying.

In 2000, I had a cancer patient named Jeanette Hall. Another doctor had given her a terminal diagnosis of six months to a year to live.  This was based on her not being treated for cancer. At our first meeting, she told me that she did not want to be treated, and that she wanted to opt for what our law allowed - to kill herself with a lethal dose of barbiturates.

I did not and do not believe in assisted suicide. I informed her that her cancer was treatable and that her prospects were good. But she wanted "the pills."  She had made up her mind, but she continued to see me. On the third or fourth visit, I asked her about her family and learned that she had a son. I asked her how he would feel if she went through with her plan. Shortly after that, she agreed to be treated, and her cancer was cured. 

Several years later she saw me in a restaurant and said, "Dr. Stevens, you saved my life."

For her, the mere presence of legal assisted suicide had steered her to suicide.

I urge the citizens of Massachusetts to vote no on Question 2.

Dr. Kenneth Stevens

Sherwood, Ore

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Killing with kindness: Why the Death With Dignity Act endangers people with disabilities

By S.J. Rosenbaum

I think my opinions about doctor-assisted suicide crystallized the night Mike — my wheelchair-using, ventilator-breathing boyfriend — choked on pineapple juice, passed out, and died.

He was dead for several minutes, on a steel table in the ER. The doctor shocked the pulse back into his heart and dropped him into an induced coma, but it still wasn't clear whether he would make it. As I stood by his bedside, shaking, one of the nurses touched me on the shoulder.

"Maybe it's better this way," she murmured.

I'll never forget that moment. We'd been watching a movie together a few hours before. We had plans to go clubbing. Maybe it's better this way?

I'm not a violent person, but I wanted to punch that lady in the face.

When I started going out with Mike, I thought that prejudice against people with disabilities was something we'd left behind along with Jim Crow and sodomy laws. I was shocked, again and again, to find that I was wrong. So wrong. Everyone I met had ideas about what it must be like to date Mike — that we never went out, that we couldn't have sex, that I must have to take care of him all the time — that were so false as to be laughable. We did laugh at that stuff. We had to. But for every person who came up to us to congratulate Mike on his "bravery" in taking a trip to the mall, there was someone who actually thought he'd be better off dead.

Some of those people were doctors.

Not the young doctor who fought like a demon to restart his heart in the ER. But there were others: well-meaning doctors who saw Mike, and people like him, as pitiable — as "bad outcomes." In fact, that's the norm: study after study has shown that doctors, as a group, consistently underestimate the quality of life of their disabled patients. Those prejudices — unquestioned and unacknowledged — can have disastrous results.

I don't know anyone born with a serious disability whose doctors didn't tell their parents that they would never be able to live independently. A doctor at Mass General, who treats children with muscular dystrophy, told me about colleagues who had counseled their patients against using the ventilators that would prolong their lives by decades. Those doctors weren't trying to do harm. They simply saw their patients' lives as not worth living.

As disability activist Carol Gill writes: "Many of us have been harmed significantly by medical professionals who knew little about our lives, who thought incurable functional impairments were the worst things that could happen to a person, and who were confident they knew best."

All this, then, is why I'll be voting against referendum Question 2, the Death with Dignity Act, on November 6.


The language of the bill sounds reasonable: it would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication, upon request, to patients with terminal diseases. But it wouldn't actually have much benefit for the dying, who already have the same access to self-administered suicide as anyone else. Instead, it could present doctors with an option to offer the patients they think they can't help: the bill's definition of "terminal disease" is so vague as to encompass disabilities like Mike's, and it has no requirement that a person seeking the fatal dose see a counselor or be screened for depression.

So why would a person with a disability ask for a suicide pill? My ex never would. Disabled from birth, Mike has been fighting for his rights since he was in grade school. He's a badass with 60 tattoos, and he's not ready to die any time soon.

But for the late-disabled, it's different. People diagnosed with a progressive disease — MS, ALS, and other such dire acronyms — still carry the same prejudices they've held all their able-bodied lives. Often, they don't know anyone living a full, enjoyable life with disabilities, don't know such lives are possible. So if a doctor offers them an exit, they're all too likely to take it.

It's happened. One of the earliest right-to-die cases, in 1989, was that of David Rivlin, a spinal-cord-injury survivor. Isolated in a nursing home, cut off from meaningful work, unable to live independently on the meager assistance the state offered at the time, he demanded to die. "I don't want to live an empty life lying helplessly in a nursing home for another 30 years," he told a reporter.

No one offered him an alternative. "The nondisabled people around him assumed that when a person with such a disability said he would rather be dead, he was acting rationally," disability activist Paul K. Longmore wrote a few years after Rivlin's death. Neither Rivlin, nor other people with disabilities seeking "death with dignity," realized that they could have been fighting for the support to live, rather than the right to die. Longmore observed, "The only real aid the system offered any of them . . . was assistance in ending their lives."

It's not 1989 anymore. The disabled in Massachusetts have more access, and more agency, than those in almost any other state, and activists fought hard to make it that way. Disabled Bostonians are filmmakers, tattoo artists, psychologists, writers. They ride the T. They own houses and businesses. And like Mike and me, they fall in love.

But not everyone knows that those things are an option. And with Romney — a man who sees adequate health care as a privilege, not a right — on the same ballot as Question 2, all that progress is scarily close to rolling back. Now is the worst time to perpetuate the myth that death is better than disability.

Vote no on Question 2.

Read more: 
http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/146648-killing-with-kindness-why-the-death-with-dignity-/#ixzz2AvRHl7Jn

Monday, October 29, 2012

Assisted Suicide Users are Older People with Money

By Margaret Dore, Esq., Updated October 29, 2012

Users of assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington are overwhelmingly white and generally well-educated.[1]  Many have private insurance.[2]  Most are age 65 and older.[3]  Typically persons with these attributes are seniors with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately at risk of financial abuse and exploitation.[4] 

In the United States, elder financial abuse costs elders an estimated $2.9 billion per year.[5] Perpetrators include strangers, family members and friends.[6]. The goals of financial abuse perpetrators are achieved "through deceit, threats, and emotional manipulation of the elder."[7]

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.[8] There is also no oversight when the lethal dose is administered, not even a witness is required.[9] 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.[10]  Even if he struggled, who would know?

This is not to say that all persons who use the Oregon and Washington acts are subject to abuse or that their actions are not voluntary.  Rather, the Oregon and Washington acts do not protect such persons from abuse.  Neither will the Massachusetts proposal.

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

[1] See the most current official report from Washington State, "Washington State Department of Health 2011 Death with Dignity Act Report, Executive Summary ("Of the 94 participants in 2011 who died, . . . 94% were white, non-Hispanic . . .75 percent had at least some college education"), available at http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/5300/DWDA2011.pdf  See also the most current official report from Oregon, also for 2011 ("most [users] were white (95.6%) [and] well-educated (48.5% had at least a baccalaureate degree) . . .", available at http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year14.pdf
[2] See Washington's report in note 1, page 5, table 2 (46% had private insurance only, or a combination of private and Medicaid/Medicare).  See Oregon's report in note 1("patients who had private insurance (50.8%) was lower in 2011 than in previous years (68.0%). . ."
[3] See Washington's report in note 1, page 5, Table 2 (74% were aged 65 or older).  See Oregon's report in note 1, page 2 ("Of the 71 DWDA deaths during 2011, most (69.0%) were aged 65 years or older; the median age was 70 years").
[4]  Educated persons are generally financially better off than non-educated persons; persons with private insurance have funding to pay for it; seniors generally are well off.  See "Broken Trust:  Elders, Family, and Finances, a Study on Elder Financial Abuse Prevention, by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, March 2009, Executive Summary, page 4 ("Elders’ vulnerabilities and larger net worth make them a prime target for financial abuse").
[5]  The Met Life Study of Elder Financial Abuse, " Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America's Elders," June 2011, page 2, key findings ("The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion dollars, a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008"). 
[6] Id.
[7] Id., page 3.
[8] See e.g. Margaret K. Dore, "'Death with Dignity': What Do We Advise Our Clients?," King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009; and Margaret K. Dore, Memo to Joint Judiciary Committee (regarding Bill H.3884, now Ballot Question No. 2), Section III
[9] Id.  See also entire proposed Massachusetts Act at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/ma-initiative.pdf
[10]  The drugs used, Secobarbital and Pentobarbital, are water and alcohol soluable, such that they can be injected without consent, for example, to a sleeping individual.  See "Secobarbital Sodium Capsules, Drugs.Com, at  http://www.drugs.com/pro/seconal-sodium.html  If the person wakes up and trys to fight, who would know? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Legalization And Violent Deaths


By Margaret Dore

Assisted suicide proponents claim that legal assisted suicide will prevent violent deaths such as those by murder-suicide and suicide involving a handgun.[1] In Oregon where assisted-suicide has been legal since 1997, murder-suicide has not been eliminated.[2]  Indeed, murder-suicides follow "the national pattern."[3]  As discussed below, suicides involving a handgun have also not been eliminated.  Oregon's suicide rate has instead increased with legalization of assisted suicide.

Oregon’s overall suicide rate, which excludes suicides under Oregon’s assisted suicide act, is 35% above the national average.[4] This rate has been "increasing significantly since 2000."[5]  Just three years prior, in 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide.[6] Other suicides thus increased, not decreased, with legalization of assisted suicide.  Moreover, many of these deaths are violent.  For 2007, which is the most recent year reported, "[f]irearms were the dominant mechanism of suicide among men."[7] The claim that legalization will prevent violent deaths is without factual support.

* * *

[1]  See e.g. Lindsey Anderson, Associated Press, "Mass. Voters Consider Physician-Assisted Suicide," October 20, 2012, at http://www.wbur.org/2012/10/20/physician-assisted-suicide ("Dr. Marcia Angell ... believes [her father] would've lived longer and not turned to a pistol had assisted suicide been available").
[2]  See Don Colburn, "Recent murder-suicides follow the national pattern," The Oregonian, November 17, 2009 ("In the span of one week this month in the Portland area, three murder-suicides resulted in the deaths of six adults and two children") (Available at http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2009/11/recent_murder-suicides_follow.html); Baldr Odinson, "Fourth Murder-Suicide for the Eugene Area," New Trajectory:  A blog for Ceasefire Oregon, March 2, 2011, ("Harry Hanus, age 74, shot and killed his wife, Barbara, before taking his own life")

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Massachusetts: Bob Joyce on Elder Abuse, etc. - Vote No on Question 2

Dear Editor:

It's not clear why The Bulletin titled Joe Galeota's recent column as it did ["Terrible," October 11, 2012].

If it's because the column offered no information about the content of the physician-prescribed suicide referendum, I agree. That is terrible. . . .

Let's get serious, and consider just a few of the many reasons why voters should defeat this flawed bill.

The referendum shockingly increases the risk of abuse to elders, many of whom do not have loving families and/or have lost their circle of friends and/or have no one to advocate for them. We should consider that Massachusetts had 19,500 reported cases of elder abuse in 2011. There are insufficient elder abuse investigators to keep up with the 54 new cases reported each day. One study has suggested that there are 23.5 unreported cases for every one reported case.

The referendum does not even provide the level of protection required when a person signs a will in Massachusetts (i.e., two disinterested witnesses), and there is absolutely no oversight at the time the lethal drugs would be administered. 

The Massachusetts Medical Society, representing more than 24,000 physicians and medical students, opposes the bill. So does the American Medical Society.

Insurance companies, hospitals and governmental medical providers have a clear and compelling financial interest in denying us of adequate end-of-life care.

How much do you trust insurers, hospitals and governments? Unless you answer "with my life," you should oppose physician-prescribed suicide and vote NO on Question Two.

It would indeed be "terrible"  if we allow this referendum to pass!

Robert W. Joyce

Persons Living With HIV/AIDS: Is This What You Want? To be Just Like Us?

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

Some HIV/AIDS groups have endorsed Ballot Question 2, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts via a proposed act.  This post suggests that these groups and/or persons living with HIV/AIDS should give the issue a second look. 

1.  "Terminal" Does Not Mean "Dying" 

The proposed act applies to persons with a "terminal disease," defined in terms of less than six months to live.[1]  In Oregon, where there is a similar act, the six months to live is determined without requiring treatment.[2] 

In other words, a person living with HIV/AIDS, who is doing well, but who is dependent on treatment to live, is "terminal" for the purpose of assisted suicide eligibility. 

2.  The Significance of a Terminal Label

Once someone is labeled "terminal," an easy justification can be made that his or her treatment should be denied in favor of someone more deserving.  In Oregon, "terminal" patients are not only denied treatment, they are offered assisted suicide instead.  In a recent affidavit, Oregon doctor Ken Stevens states:

"9.  Under the Oregon Health Plan, there is . . .  a financial incentive towards suicide because the Plan will not necessarily pay for a patient’s treatment.  For example, patients with cancer are denied treatment if they have a "less than 24 months median survival with treatment" and fit other criteria. . . . 

12. All such persons . . .  will . . . be denied treatment. Their suicides under Oregon’s assisted suicide act will be covered."[3]

Dr. Stevens concludes:

"14. The Oregon Health Plan is a government health plan administered by the State of Oregon. If assisted suicide is legalized in [your jurisdiction], your government health plan could follow a similar pattern. If so, the plan will pay for a patient to die, but not to live."[4]

3.  Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup

In Oregon, the most well known persons denied treatment and offered suicide are Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup.[5]  Neither saw this event as a celebration of their "choice."  Wagner said: "I'm not ready to die."[6]  Stroup said: "This is my life they’re playing with."[7] 

4.  Proposals for Expansion

I live in Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal under an act passed in 2008.[8]  Four years later, there have already been proposals to expand our act to non-terminal people.[9]  Moreover, this year, there was a Seattle Times column suggesting euthanasia as a solution for people unable to afford care, which would be involuntary euthanasia for those persons who want to live.[10]

Prior to our law's being passed, I never heard anyone talk like this.

Is this what you want?

To be just like us?

Legal assisted suicide puts anyone with a significant health condition at risk of being steered to suicide.  For other reasons to vote against assisted suicide, please click here for talking points.  I hope that AIDS groups and people living with AIDS reconsider any support of Ballot Question No. 2.  Thank you.
* * *

Margaret Dore is a lawyer in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. She is also President of Choice is an Illusion, a non-profit corporation opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Ms. Dore has been licensed to practice law since 1986. She is a former Law Clerk to the Washington State Supreme Court. She has several published court cases and many published scholarly articles. Her viewpoint is that people should be in control of their own fates, but that assisted suicide laws do not deliver. This year, she had an editorial published in the NY Times: "Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse." For more information see www.margaretdore.com and www.choiceillusion.org

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Massachusetts: Vote no on Question 2

"Ignoring any moral issues, the initiative is vulnerable to abuse and should not be passed into law."

By Anthony Speranza


http://www.salemnews.com/opinion/x1684126269/Column-Vote-no-on-Question-2

This year in Massachusetts, voters will decide on Question 2: an initiative petition to legalize physician-assisted suicide in the commonwealth. Ignoring any moral issues, the initiative is vulnerable to abuse and should not be passed into law.

Dignity 2012, a group in support of the issue referred to as "Death with Dignity," claims the proposed law "contains strict safeguards to ensure that the patient is making a voluntary and informed decision." The safeguards written into the law, however, are insufficient. First, nearly all responsibility rests in the hands of a patient's physician. Section 6 of the initiative states that no patient shall be prescribed the life-ending medication if either of two physicians deem that the patient suffers from a "psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression." While the theory behind this precaution is practical, it falls short of effective. Only 15 days separate the date of request from the date of prescription of the lethal dose. There is no clear definition of what tests must be run in this time to check a patient's mental capacity. According to Jennifer Popik, a medical ethics attorney, "There is no requirement that the patient be given a psychiatric evaluation... This means that a physician ... can prescribe suicide to that patient without even a specialist's evaluation." The "safeguard" concerning mental health is rendered useless because a psychiatric evaluation is not compulsory. A similar law in Oregon serves as a warning: According to a report by the Oregon Public Health Department, of the 71 patients who chose physician-assisted suicide last year, only one was referred for psychiatric evaluation.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Massachusetts: Ballot Question 2, Whose Choice?

"[This] would be on an involuntary basis for those persons who want to live."

By Margaret Dore

I am an attorney in Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal.  Our law was passed by a ballot initiative in November 2008 and went into effect in March 2009.  Our law is similar to Ballot Question 2. 

In Washington State, my former clients own two adult family homes (small elder care facilities).  Four days after the election, the adult child of one of their residents asked about getting pills for the purpose of causing his father's death.  It wasn't the older gentleman asking for his "right to die."[1]

At that time, our law had not yet gone into effect; the man died before it did.  But if our law had been in effect, whose choice would it have been?  The choice of his son, or the choice of the older gentleman?

In Washington state, we have already had suggestions to expand our law to direct euthanasia for non-terminal people.[2].  More disturbing, there was this discussion in the Seattle Times suggesting euthanasia for people unable to afford care, which would be on an involuntary basis for those persons who want to live.  Columnist Jerry Large stated:

"After Monday's column, some readers were unsympathetic [to people unable to afford care], a few 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."[3]

I never saw anything like this prior to our law's being passed in 2008.  Be careful what you vote for.

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 http://www.margaretdore.com/pdf/Not_Legal_in_Idaho.pdf.
[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 athttp://www.margaretdore.com/info/September_Letters.pdf 
[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 http://www.choiceillusion.org/p/the-oregon-washington-assisted-suicide.html 
[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 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 http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year14.pdf
[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 http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2011/mmi-elder-financial-abuse.pdf
[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 http://www.massagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/memo-to-joint-judiciary-committee.html
[8]  See above memo at Section III.A.1("No witnesses at the death").  See also entire proposed Massachusetts Act at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/ma-initiative.pdf

Friday, May 18, 2012

Massachusetts: Legal Challenge to Ballot Measure


Disability Rights Group Challenges Language for Assisted Suicide Ballot Measure as "Misleading, Inaccurate, and Euphemistic"

CONTACT  John Kelly 617-536-5140 

(BostonMA) – On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Massachusetts voters including members of the disability rights group Second Thoughts filed a challenge before the Supreme Judicial Court regarding the proposed ballot language for the measure that, if approved, would legalize assisted suicide in the state.

"The ballot language is clearly misleading," said Second Thoughts director John Kelly of Boston. "We want the voters ofMassachusetts to know exactly what they are voting on this November," he said.

The petition asks the Supreme Judicial Court to remand the language to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Secretary of State William Galvin with the requirement that they amend the language for clarity and accuracy.

"The ballot language repeats the problems of the bill itself," said Second Thoughts member Paul Spooner of Taunton. "The title is euphemistic, with the word ‘medication’ twisted beyond recognition. People will be led to believe that the measure is about palliative care, when it is about taking a lethal overdose -- in other words, poison. Why not just call the act by its common and legal name, 'physician-assisted suicide?'"

"The way 'terminally-ill' is used in the description is clearly misleading ," said Kelly, "people will be encouraged to assume that being 'terminally ill' is a biological fact, rather than a human guess."

"People with disabilities are very familiar with so-called terminal diagnoses," said Second Thoughts member John Norton of Florence. "Everyone knows someone who has outlived their terminal diagnosis -- I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease as a teenager; I'm alive and well fifty years later.  The ballot language misleads by implying that a 'terminally-ill' diagnosis actually leads to death within six months.  Instead, it should say ‘diagnosed as terminal’ or something similar in terms of accuracy."

"And what about choice?," asked Spooner. "There are no safeguards to protect patients from having the poison given to them by an heir or abusive caretaker. No witnesses are required under the law, so if someone else were to administer the drugs, who would know?"

The language submitted by the Attorney General Martha Coakley and Secretary of State is:

Title: Prescribing Medication to End Life [11-12] - Petition G
A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally-ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life.

Second Thoughts has taken a leading role in opposing the ballot measure, and has been featured in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and on local TV and radio.