by Compassion & Choices staff
March 18, 2013
HELENA – Compassion & Choices Montana today announced a statewide radio campaign designed to educate the public on House Bill 505. The campaign, which begins airing ads this week, urges Montanans to contact their legislators and ask them to vote against a bill that would treat aid in dying as a homicide. Sixty-five percent of Montana voters want their own personal doctor to be able to comply with their end-of-life choices. HB 505, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), seeks to put physicians in prison for up to 10 years for providing aid in dying to terminally ill patients who request it. It would change the legal landscape established in a 2009 state Supreme Court decision, which found that a physician could not be prosecuted for prescribing medication that a terminally ill person could take to bring about a peaceful death.
Dr. Eric Kress, featured in the ads, was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. Prior to his current position as a family physician at Western Montana Clinic in Missoula, Kress served as medical director at Hospice of Missoula for nine years.
“In my practice, I provide care and compassion to suffering, terminally ill patients at the end of their lives. But this bill would imprison doctors like me who help dying patients in extreme pain,” Kress said. “This bill would gut a Montana Supreme Court decision and allow big, invasive government into private medical decisions.”
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baxter v. Montana, it was unclear whether physicians could help terminally ill patients who wished to end their suffering. On December 31, 2009, the Baxter decision made Montana the third U.S. state where aid in dying is a safe and legal medical choice. The ruling strengthened the 1991 Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, which allows mentally competent adults to make a declaration – Montana’s term for a living will. In 2009 the court ruled that the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act specifically defers to a patient’s own decisions and affords patients the right to control their own bodies at the end of life. HB505 would take that right away and weaken the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.