Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Down the Slippery Slope

This is a very interesting commentary by a County Health Officer in Montana concerning the court imposed assisted suicide in that State.

Link to the article:

The article presents an interesting perspective against legalizing assisted suicide. The fact is that Judge McCarter is an activist Judge who is not concerned about vulnerable people in Montana who could be killed by this judgement. The decision by McCarter was appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.

Down the Slippery Slope

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In December 2008 District Judge, Dorothy McCarter, of Helena ruled that the state homicide laws were unconstitutional. Specifically, a terminally ill 75 year-old man (Robert Baxter) with Leukemia had petitioned the court to permit his physicians to administer a lethal injection. After due legal process, Judge McCarter rules that a mentally competent, “terminally ill” (whatever that means) patient could be administered a lethal injection without his physician incurring any legal risk. This ruling was to take effect immediately in her issue of the decision.

Attorney General, Mike McGrath has submitted a motion defending Montana state law asking for a summary judgment that “unless and until Montana's legislature decides to start down the rarely traveled path towards a regulated regimen of physician assisted suicide, the court should refuse to blaze a trail.”

As yet this writer is not aware of just what is legal in Montana. The patient for whom the case was brought to Judge McCarter's court died in his sleep before his judgment was rendered. At this time the ruling is in the process of litigation but if it is upheld, Montana will become the third state in the country to legalize assisted suicide. Oregon has had legalized physician assisted suicide for some 10 years. In November 2008 the voters in Washington state similarly legalized physician assisted suicide by means of a ballot initiative. Otherwise it is illegal for a physician to ever put anyone to death except in those states where they are exempted from legal action if they assist in a court ordered execution by lethal injection.

The Montana Medical Association has taken no action on this issue as of this time. There is definitely going to be considerable discussion and debate over the ethics and morality of this issue. At his point there is no problem when it comes to how lethal injection is done, rather the question is can it be justified?

The writer has been begged and beseeched on several occasions to terminate the life of a person who is believed to be incurably ill and suffering - even to the point of being told that it was his duty to end a patient's life. For moral, legal, and theological reasons, these requests have always been refused; although he has frequently dispatched a suffering animal with no qualms of conscience.

The Netherlands has legally permitted physician assisted suicide for many years and on reviewing the reports of some writers, it is less than a wonderful social program. Many thousands of chronically ill and elderly people have been put to death by lethal injection. In some situations frail old people are terrified of going to the hospital, especially of they suspect relatives would be better off if they were not an ongoing burden. There is increasing agitation to get that law repealed. Adolph Hitler and his associates felt that German society could be greatly improved economically and physically if certain types of people such as Jews, Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, and people with certain types of mental retardation and mental illness could be eliminated. This was done with remarkable efficiency in various death camps.

The Eskimos (Inuit) who really could not afford to feed and clothe non-productive individuals, would take the old and feeble out onto the ice and leave them. A very good and careful doctor who worked with Native Americans told the writer of an incident described to him while taking a family history. The patient told him “When we traveled to the reservation, our grandmother was very weak and riding in the back of the wagon. When we arrived, she was gone and we never went back to look for her.”

Modern medicine has excellent and effective ways of relieving pain and sustaining life. The entire hospice program does an excellent job of helping people to remain relatively pain free and die with dignity.

This writer is absolutely committed to providing reasonable dignified care regardless of the cost for as long as life lasts. After all, he is rapidly approaching the point of being useless, worthless, and expensive to maintain.

Richard S. Buker Jr., M.D.
County Health Officer

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