Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hastened death without request in Montana.

The following letter was written by Carol Mungas and published in the Montana Great Falls Review on March 14, 2013.

Against Assisted Suicide.

My husband, Dr. James E. Mungas, was a respected physician and surgeon here in Great Falls. He developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and I took care of him. His mind was clear and thought processes unimpaired. He was against assisted suicide and euthanasia.

I needed to travel out of town for a day and a half. We agreed he would stay at a local care facility in my absence. Once there, 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 that day. Over the next few days, he struggled to breathe and desperately struggled to remain conscious to communicate, but the nurses kept pushing the morphine button and advised our children to do the same. My children and I did not understand the extent morphine would repress the respiratory system until later. This was neither 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 or abuse the power they have. The stakes are too high to consider expanding their power by legalizing assisted-suicide. The recent guest column by Dr. Stephen Speckart and other doctors claims that assisted suicide is already legal. For that reason, I support House Bill 505, which clearly states that assisted suicide is not legal.

Carol Mungas,
Great Falls Montana


Dolorosa said...

VITAS Hospice comes to your home and uses morphine on their patients and one wonders if they too are giving them an overdose as my Dad who had cancer was given morphine before he died.

Elizabeth said...

My father was killed without his consent in a Nova Scotia hospital. I have a lot of evidence - and nothing I can do about it. Euthanasia is happening with frightening regularity.

Anonymous said...

I am a hospice nurse. Morphine is an excellent drug - when used as it is intended. Along with its obvious pain effects it can effectively ease air hunger when a terminal patient nears death (the feeling that they are slowly suffocating). When I administer it I am careful of a few things: what the person's capacity for suffering is and also how lucid that particular patient wishes to be. This is, as you might imagine, highly individual. When a patient receives morphine at the end of life please don't automatically assume that he/she was given too much or euthanized. At the same time be aware that communication must be very open with the provider. If you are not comfortable with something, speak up and address it. (I work for VITAS).

Alex Schadenberg said...

I have received several comments that were very informative, but they were from an Anonymous person.

I do not publish Anonymous comments but I will make one exception. A nurse who wrote a letter explains the proper use of morphine in these circumstances.