by Compassion & Choices staff
February 28, 2013
(Washington, D.C. – Feb. 28, 2013) The nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization urged the Montana Senate and Governor Steve Bullock to reject a bill passed Thursday in the Montana House of Representatives by a 51-46 vote that would imprison doctors for up to 10 years if they provide aid in dying.
“Threatening doctors with 10 years in jail for honoring a terminally ill patient’s request for aid in dying violates the sacred doctor-patient relationship and the views of most Montana voters,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, a nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before becoming a private attorney, counsel to the Oregon Senate and a Chief Petitioner of the first-in-the nation 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act. “Taking away the option of aid in dying would exacerbate the suffering of dying patients.”
A 2010 Binder Research poll showed an overwhelming majority of Democratic, Republican and Independent voters in Montana “support allowing dying patients in severe distress to make their own end-of-life choice to receive a prescription for life-ending medication.” If the bill, HB505, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), is enacted into law, it would gut a 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling in Baxter v. Montana, a case brought by Compassion & Choices, confirming that it is not against public policy in Montana for a physician to provide aid in dying to a mentally competent, terminally ill person.
“The Senate and Governor Bullock must honor the views of their constituents by rejecting this draconian bill to take away the right of mentally competent people to make their own medical decisions,” said Coombs Lee. “Other state legislatures are moving to protect this legal right, not deny it.”
In contrast to Montana, legislative efforts promoting patient choice at the end of life are underway in numerous other states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Two weeks ago, the Vermont Senate gave final approval to a “Death with Dignity” bill that would protect doctors from criminal or civil liability when treating terminally ill patients who choose to end their lives. National polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans want to maintain their right to choose their medical treatment at the end of their life.