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Guest column by Montana doctors on physician-assisted suicide was erroneous

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The (Feb. 27) guest column by Stephen Speckart and other doctors claiming that assisted suicide is legal under the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, is wrong. 

The court’s holding is limited to giving doctors who assist a suicide a potential defense to a homicide charge. Indeed, Dr. Speckart all but admitted this fact when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011. He said: “(M)ost physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision.” (http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/speckart-transcript.pdf.)

Speckart and the other doctors are also wrong about House Bill 505, which seeks to clarify the law against physician-assisted suicide. There is nothing in the bill that would subject doctors to “prison” for talking to their patients about the withdrawal of a ventilator or feeding tube. This is clear if you read this bill’s short and easy-to-read text. HB505 exempts “any act to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment (such as a ventilator or feeding tube) authorized pursuant to Title 50, chapters 9 and 10 (The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act is Title 50, chapter 9 of Montana Code Annotated).” See HB505 at http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2013/billpdf/HB0505.pdf.

It does not facilitate debate on this issue when physicians publish erroneous information in the newspaper. Our profession can do better.

Annie Bukacek,

Kalispell

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