By Alex Schadenberg
The letter I wrote to the Revalli Republic newspaper in Montana on assisted suicide and elder abuse was published online today.
I was told by the newspaper that they only publish letters from people in Montana in the newspaper but they publish all applicable letter online. Nonetheless, I thought it was worth writing and I think it is worth reading.
This letter responds to your recent AP article about assisted-suicide (Associated Press, Nov. 16). I write to emphasize elder financial abuse as a reason to keep assisted suicide out of Montana.
The landmark 2009 report by MetLife Mature Market Institute describes elder financial abuse as a crime “growing in intensity.” (See: www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/mmi-study-broken-trust-elders-family-finances.pdf, p.16.) The perpetrators are often family members, some of whom feel themselves “entitled” to the elder’s assets (Id, pp. 13-14.) The report states that they start out with small crimes, such as stealing jewelry and blank checks, before moving on to larger items or coercing elders to sign over the deeds to their homes, change their wills or liquidate their assets (Id, p. 14.) The report states that victims “may even be murdered” by perpetrators (Id., p. 24.)
With legal assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington state, perpetrators are instead able to take a “legal” route by getting an elder to sign a lethal dose request. Once the prescription is filled, there is no supervision over administration. The elder could be cajoled or coerced into taking the lethal dose, for example, while under the influence of alcohol. The lethal dose could be administered while the elder slept. If he awoke and struggled, who would know?