Oregon Radio Station KZTV is reporting that a woman has been charged with "criminal mistreatment and aggravated theft" in a case involving assisted suicide. The state alleges that Tami Sawyer "took custody of Thomas Middleton, a dependent or elderly person, for the purpose of fraud."
Middleton, who had ALS, had moved into the home of Sawyer, a real estate broker, after making her trustee of his estate, which he placed in a revocable trust. Middleton deeded his home to the trust. He died of assisted suicide the same month he moved into Sawyer's home. She listed the house for sale two days after his death, sold it, and deposited the proceeds into three companies she owned with her husband.
It is not surprising in a state that wants to portray its assisted suicide law as free of abuse that Sawyer has not been charged with homicide but only with mistreatment, fraud, and theft. What is surprising is that this case of elder abuse came to the attention of police at all. It most likely only did because Middleton's move into a non-related person' s home to be cared for while dying was unusual enough to raise a few red flags when that person came into an inheritance from him very quickly after the move. We assume Middleton had legally obtained the overdose of drugs that caused his death. If the charges of financial abuse by his caregiver are not setting off an investigation into his death, we can be very certain that no one would ever investigate the death of a person who had obtained a lethal dose but whose heirs were relatives, those expected to be caretakers and expected to be heirs as well.
We simply don't know, and almost certainly will not and cannot know, how many cases of abuse or outright murder have been concealed under the mask of legal assisted suicide. We do know, however, that much elder abuse is committed by those same relatives, those same heirs, who are least likely to be suspected, those same family members that proponents of assisted suicide claim need its legalization so that they can be at the patient's bedside when he dies.
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