For more than 20 years, I have been an internal medicine physician with a high percentage of older patients. I have had the painful misfortune of personally observing countless instances of elder abuse. I write in support of Sen. Greg Hinkle's bill to prohibit assisted suicide and thereby prevent new paths of such abuse in Montana.
Elder abuse is horrific and on the rise. Perpetrators of the abuse include hired caregivers, neighbors, and family members. In my experience, the motive is usually financial gain. This was true in the case of one of my patients, where a much younger man obtained financial control (became the payee for Social Security and retirement benefits) by taking advantage of an elderly woman's loneliness and dementia. He feigned romantic interest in her, flattering her to the point she became isolated as she took his side against her family members. She became isolated and totally dependent on him. After many months, Adult Protective Services was able to provide a guardian. This same motive of greed could lead to coerced assisted suicide if there was anticipated financial gain, and death could occur quickly if assisted suicide was legal - before protection could be put in place.
Elder abuse is already a huge problem in Montana. For references regarding elder abuse and other grave concerns about assisted suicide, the Hinkle report is available here: www.margaretdore.com/pdf/HinkleReport.pdf. I urge everyone to contact their legislators and ask them to support Hinkle's bill that will prohibit assisted suicide.
Annie Bukacek, Kalispell