Thursday, October 11, 2012

Setting the Facts Straight on Assisted Suicide

Dear Editor:

I was glad to see that Lavonne Neff would vote "no" on assisted suicide.  ("Death with Dignity," October 10, 2012).  I disagree, however, with the implication of her article that assisted suicide is for people who are necessarily dying.  I also disagree that assisted suicide is legal in my state, Montana.

In 2007, assisted suicide proponents brought a lawsuit in Montana seeking to legalize assisted suicide for "terminally ill adult patients."  The definition of this phrase was broad enough to include otherwise healthy young people with chronic conditions.  See this opinion letter by attorney Theresa Schrempp and Dr. Richard Wonderly, MD, at

In 2008, a trial judge ruled that assisted suicide is a right under our state Constitution.  In 2009, the Supreme Court of Montana vacated that ruling and held that doctors who assist a suicide can assert a defense to criminal prosecution.  Under this holding, however, doctors can still be convicted of homicide.  They can also be sued and held liable for wrongful death.  Please consider this analysis by attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman:"The Montana Supreme Court's assisted suicide decision . . . didn't even 'legalize' assisted suicide. . . . After [the decision], assisted suicide continues to carry both criminal and civil liability risks for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved."

There are just two states where assisted suicide is legal, Oregon and Washington.  In these states, legalization has created new paths of elder abuse.  This is not a result that anyone should follow.

To learn more about problems with legal assisted-suicide, see:

Bradley D. Williams
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide,
A Montana Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation
610 North 1st St., Suite 5-285
Hamilton, MT 59840