I disagree with Barbara Coombs Lee, who implies that assisted suicide is legal in Montana (“Rebutting claims,” Sept. 16).
I am an internal medicine physician with over 20 years’ experience. In both 2011 and 2013, proposed bills to legalize assisted suicide failed to get through our legislature. In both years, these bills had sought to legalize assisted suicide for people with a prognosis of less than six months to live. A prognosis (prediction) does not mean dying. I have seen many cases where specialists have been wrong in predicting life span, sometimes by decades.
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://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/records-man-urged-victim-to-kill-self-via-webcam/article_2bf2c17f-4936-5776-a1a6-6444c4f67978.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.