Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Physician Comments on Montana's Shift toward Assisted Suicide

In his letter to the editor of the Missoula Independent, Oregon physician Kenneth Stevens responds to an article favoring assisted suicide by explaining his belief that legalization has led to elder abuse in his state.

Dear Editor:

I am a doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Compassion & Choices can't deny that its so-called "aid in dying" laws are a recipe for abuse, especially regarding the elderly.

So what does it do? It changes the subject by posing a counter-question about pain. [Alex Sakariassen, "Aid in dying and elder abuse," June 14, 2010].

I thought this was an interesting development given the experience of Randy Stroup. He was an Oregon resident who desired drug therapy to ease his pain and extend his life. The Oregon Health Plan turned him down, offering him assisted suicide instead. (see story,

Barbara Wagner had a similar experience. The Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for a cancer drug to possibly prolong her life and offered assisted suicide instead. Compassion & Choices promotes assisted-suicide as a "choice" for patients. Ms. Wagner, who did not ask for this "choice," did not see it that way. She said: "I'm not ready, I'm not ready to die." (see story,

In both cases, the Oregon Health Plan's position was only possible, because assisted suicide is legal in Oregon. With assisted-suicide now at issue in Montana, will you and your families be the next Randy Stroup? Will you be the next Barbara Wagner?

Kenneth Stevens, M.D.

Related link:
Learn more about this issue! Visit Physicians for Compassionate Care at

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