My husband, Dr. James E. Mungas, was a respected physician/surgeon here in Montana. He developed ALS and I was taking care of him in our home. Unable to talk, he was nevertheless able to communicate through the use of a word board and iPad with a speech feature. His mind was clear. His thought processes were unimpaired. He was against assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.
I needed to travel out of town for a day and a half. We agreed that he would stay at a local care facility in my absence.
At the facility, there apparently was some confusion about his condition. The nurses began administering morphine. After the first dose, my husband knew that he had been overdosed and typed out a message to call respiratory therapy. None came. Over the next few days, he struggled to breathe, desperately struggled to remain conscious to communicate with me and our children, but the nurses kept pushing the morphine button and advised my children to do it every 15 minutes. My children and I did not understand the extent morphine would repress the respiratory system until later, but he did.
This was not palliative care nor managing pain; this was hastening death. He was effectively euthanized against his will. He did not get his choice. It is traumatic still to realize his last communications were attempts to get help.
As illustrated by my husband’s case, doctors and nurses already misuse and/or abuse the power they have under current law. The stakes are too high that we should consider expanding their power by legalizing assisted suicide.
Please tell your legislators to vote “yes” on House Bill 505.
Carol E. Mungas,