Speaker discusses pros, cons for doctor-assisted death options

2010-11-09T03:00:00Z Speaker discusses pros, cons for doctor-assisted death optionsBy George Plaven of The Montana Standard Montana Standard
November 09, 2010 3:00 am  • 

ANACONDA — Roberta King watched her father die over the course of 

12 years.

Diagnosed with a form of leukemia, Bob Baxter knew he would never recover. He decided, instead, to pursue a physician-aided death and say goodbye on his own terms.

The disease progressed and King, 48, said she began to understand. Now an advocate for physician-aided death, she spoke Monday at the Hearst Free Library in Anaconda to raise awareness of the issue.

Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit that promotes physician-aided death as an option for terminally ill patients, hosted the presentation and public discussion.

King also explained a recent Montana Supreme Court ruling that upholds patients’ right to die if they are terminally ill, mentally competent and able to self-administer. It affirmed a 2008 decision by Judge Dorothy McCarter in Helena district court.

Baxter, of Billings, had been a plaintiff in that case. He died of lymphoma on Dec. 5, 2008, the same day Judge McCarter handed down her ruling.

King, the youngest of Baxter’s four children, told The Montana Standard she came to realize her father’s death wasn’t about her. It was about him.

“He should have had a choice,” King said. “Everyone should have that choice.”

About 10 people attended the presentation in Anaconda, asked questions and offered their own opinions.

Caroline Anderson, a 61-year-old registered nurse with the Community Hospital of Anaconda, said she lost her mother on Oct. 25 to lung cancer.

The death was painful, Anderson told The Standard, and a physician-aided death would have come as a benefit.

“It would have given (my mother) the ability to live better, knowing the end was when she chose,” Anderson said. “She could have died with dignity.”

Denyse Mazzolini, 64, offered an opposing view and said physician-aided death will open the door to too many other circumstances.

Mazzolini, a member of the Anaconda Catholic Community, said she believes in compassion and relieving a person’s pain as much as possible, but does not agree with any aid in suicide.

“I just don’t think it is right,” Mazzolini said. “No human being has the right to take their own life. It’s in the hands of God.”

Jessica Grennan, Montana Campaign Manager with Compassion & Choices, said they will give presentations in Sheridan and Townsend later this week.

The group wants to make sure it appears in smaller towns to answer questions and take away the taboo, Grennan said. She suggested people contact their local legislators to share their opinions on the subject.

“No matter how you feel on this issue, it’s important we promote public dialogue,” Grennan said.

State Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, plans to introduce a bill when the Legislature convenes in January that would codify the state Supreme Court decision.

State Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, is also working on a bill that would counter the decision and ban physician-aided death in Montana.

Reporter George Plaven may be reached via e-mail at george.plaven@lee.net. 


If you go

Compassion & Choices will hold presentations Tuesday in Sheridan and Wednesday in Townsend, addressing aid-in-dying in Montana. Each starts at noon.

Tuesday: Moraine Center, Sheridan.

Wednesday: Community Room, Townsend K-12 School, Townsend.

Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. flower
    Report Abuse
    flower - November 12, 2010 5:37 am
    To die with dignity is very important to the person who is going to die, also important to others around to see their loved ones die peacefully and with dignity.

    It's still in god hands to have an assisted death.

    A terminal illness not only affects the person who is terminal, it affects their family and friends. The only people who benifit from truly sick people are doctors.

    Gypsy's comment:
    “These acts empower heirs and others to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives.
    I would much rather my family and friends gain from my death than the medical (medicine, tests, & etc...) professionals, which in my eyes is abuse to gain. To see a doctor for maybe 20 mins, for a simple cold costs a little over a $100.00. I will add that we usually never see the doctor is usually the PA.

    I hope that when my death comes I can leave my house and other belongings, to my loves ones and not the nursing homes (which are known for abuse).
  2. Equal Justice
    Report Abuse
    Equal Justice - November 10, 2010 9:00 am
    Gypsy, In Montana, preventing elder abuse is official state policy. If assisted-suicide would be legalized, new paths of abuse would be created against elderly and disabled of all ages, which is contrary to that policy. State Representative Elliott states: “These acts empower heirs and others to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. This is especially an issue when the older person has money. There is no assisted suicide bill that you can write to correct this huge problem.”
    The Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for Barbara Wagner’s drug treatment to possibly prolong her life and offered to pay for her suicide instead. After Barbara’s death, Compassion & Choices published an editorial in “The Oregonian” arguing against Wagner’s choice to try to beat her cancer and they argued for a public policy change to discourage people from seeking cures. All this is obviously infringing on individual rights. Or you can wink and look the other way and call it giving people new rights. Not!
  3. runningbare
    Report Abuse
    runningbare - November 09, 2010 10:47 pm
    Equal...they give you 5 days to live. First, think of that. Then day 6,7,8,9 come along with so much pain you can't even take care of your personal needs. At which point of those last 4 days do you feel it's "wrong" for them to get help to end it? You're doomed, you're gone. I wouldn't even put my dog through that..Period!
  4. Gypsy
    Report Abuse
    Gypsy - November 09, 2010 7:32 pm
    @Equal Justice: There you go again! Spouting political balderdash about fascist governments imposing blah, blah, blah. What hooey! Forget the terminology "social justice," and concentrate on the fact that this law would GIVE people rights that they do not have at the present, and no doctor would be forced to provide the means for a peaceable and painfree death for their patients if that was against his/her values/ethics/mores, etc.
  5. Equal Justice
    Report Abuse
    Equal Justice - November 09, 2010 2:32 pm
    Actually Gypsy according to Compassion & Choices’ (aka Hemlock society) publications they claim to be part of the world wide “social justice” movement. Today’s wealthiest socialist, George Soros, mother was a member of the Hemlock Society. And George funded his own Project Death in America (PDIA) in 1994. Just Google it! I did! “Social justice” is the government imposing on individual rights for the good of the collective or fascist state and equal justice is the individual being protected from the government. Let’s stand firm for equal justice, equal rights and “keep it private” with no assisted-suicide and no assisted-abuse.
  6. Gypsy
    Report Abuse
    Gypsy - November 09, 2010 11:39 am
    It appears that "Equal Justice" equates his conservative political views with that of the "moralists" among us. This is NOT a political issue! This is NOT about socialism! This is about people being able to determine their own fate if stricken by a terminal disease that will cause undue suffering and pain in the final phase of an individual's life.

    I have a terminal illness, and I will be in a great deal of pain near the end. I certainly DO want the option of requesting assistance from my doctor(s) in ending my life in dignity, at my determination of when the pain I suffer becomes unbearable.

    I think it is shameful that this issue is being used as a political, rather than humane or moral, tool to control people they don't even know, or who they could not--in reality--care less about.
  7. runningbare
    Report Abuse
    runningbare - November 09, 2010 11:26 am
    Equal Justice, if your dog were dying a slow painful death, vomiting and hurting with every move, would you sit there and watch it? I realize it's an animal and not a human but I feel that people who are dying, in their right mind, should be able to make the choice without the suffering. I also think it should be watched very very close so that greedy relatives don't take over and make the choice.
    I recently watched my Father die. He only had 5 days to make it and understood. Problem was it was more like 9 and pain beyond. It didn't have to be that way and shouldn't have been. Being lied to, pain beyond and loss of dignity are sometimes more that one can handle.
  8. Equal Justice
    Report Abuse
    Equal Justice - November 09, 2010 8:51 am
    It is clear and settled science that human nature tends to abuse the most vulnerable among us. The best way to protect the individual rights, independence and liberties of the elderly and the disabled of all ages is to keep assisted-suicide illegal here in Montana as it is in all healthy societies. We certainly should respect the individual's right to limit life support. We in Montana stand for equal rights, equal justice and equal protection under the law to protect our independence and individual rights from the seductive doctrines of “social justice”. The Montana mindset is to “keep it private” and “prevent abuse”. We already have the individual means of choosing advance directives to “pull the plug” that are complimented with medical-power-of-attorney along with superior palliative and hospice care to comfort end-of-life suffering along with the support of those around them. Let’s not be seduced and allow the selfish evolutionary desires of the socialist to trample the independence and individual rights of elders and disabled of all ages. Our individual rights end where another citizen’s rights begin! Confidently advise your legislator to “prevent abuse” and strongly support the Montana Patients Protection Act. I will!

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