End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Patients’ Rights Advocates Report Aid in Dying Taking Place for Terminally-Ill Montanansby Sonja


63% of Montana Voters Support Supreme Court Decision; Terminally-ill Montanan Asks Doctors to Honor Choice

HELENA, MT – Compassion & Choices, the nonprofit patients’ rights group that won a Montana Supreme Court ruling allowing physicians to provide aid in dying to qualified terminally-ill adults, reports that the Baxter ruling is being honored in the state. “Doctors are learning about the ruling, and they are responding to their patients’ requests according to the court’s guidelines, and their personal ethical moral positions,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee. “Hospices and provider institutions are developing policies and serving their patients according to those policies.”

At a press conference in Helena, Montana, Compassion & Choices reported on how aid in dying for terminally-ill adults is being applied in the state of Montana, and released findings from a public opinion survey of Montanans showing strong support for this end-of-life choice and the Supreme Court’s decision. The news conference launched a public education campaign to inform Montanans of this new choice for terminal patients and counter opponents who have announced they will attempt to take it away.

A strong majority of voters support end-of-life choices; nearly 2/3rds support Supreme Court decision.

Public opinion survey expert David Binder released results showing that a strong majority of Montana voters support end-of-life choices and the Supreme Court’s Baxter decision. “Three in five (60%) of voters said they support end-of-life choices, while only 24% said they oppose,” said Binder. “There is even greater support (63%) for the recent Supreme Court ruling, and nearly two in three voters (64%) want their own personal doctor to be able to comply with their end-of-life choices.”

Voters strongly oppose the State Legislature overturning the Supreme Court decision.

When asked about the possibility of the State Legislature overturning the Supreme Court decision, voters are overwhelmingly opposed, with only one in four saying they want the State Legislature to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. Seven in ten voters do not want the Legislature to reverse the Court’s ruling. The plurality of voters (39%) want the Legislature to allow the decision to take effect as written, while another 31% want it to take effect, with some additional safeguards.

Helena resident Steve Johnson, 72, has inoperable brain cancer. He told reporters at the news conference, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that my death is approaching and unavoidable. I approach the end of my life with a clear mind, and I would like to work with my doctor to minimize the pain and maximize the peacefulness in my dying.”

Johnson has had surgery, four rounds of radiation, and undergone experimental treatment at Stanford University. “I think I should have something to say about my ending. It’s my decision to make, and it’s a great comfort to me, and other patients like me, to know that we can ask our doctor to honor our choice. It’s only compassionate to minimize unnecessary suffering at the end of life, and to let me make the choice about how much suffering to endure, based on my own values and beliefs.”

Compassion & Choices announced a public education campaign featuring Steve Johnson, and released TV ads and web video. Learn more about the Baxter v. Montana decision here.