End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Champion for End-of-Life Autonomy in Montana, Steve Johnson, Leaves Legacy of Choiceby Jay


HELENA, MT – Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit
organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, responded
today to the death of Steve Johnson, a tireless aid-in-dying campaigner and champion of
patient autonomy, last week at age 74. On August 13th, Steve died peacefully at his
summer home near the Little Blackfoot River after a 10-year battle with brain cancer. His
wife of 51 years, three children and loyal dog were with him.

“Steve was a courageous man, filled with gentle humor and goodwill. He gave the people
of Montana a great gift with his advocacy for aid in dying,” said Barbara Coombs Lee,
president of Compassion & Choices. “None could ignore his simple request to ‘have
something to say’ about the manner of his death. Now, every Montanan has ‘something
to say,’ and none are forced to suffer needlessly.”

Steve Johnson led a “My Life, My Death, My Choice” campaign to preserve and protect
the Montana Supreme Court’s Baxter decision recognizing the right of terminally ill
Montanans to physician aid in dying. His plea for a peaceful and dignified death on his
own terms was broadcast throughout the state of Montana. He testified before the Senate
Judiciary Committee in 2011 to fight a bill (SB 116) that would have revoked the right of
terminally ill patients to request aid in dying from their physicians. The bill was defeated
by a bipartisan majority, preserving Montanans ability to have control over how they are
allowed to die. “Steve was a courageous man who knew he was speaking up for not only
himself, but countless others,” said Compassion & Choices Montana volunteer and
friend, Doris Fischer.

A former rancher, veterinarian and high-school science teacher, Steve was known as
imaginative, unconventional, and passionate about nature and his family. He died under
hospice care after prior attempts to treat his cancer with surgery, radiation and other stateof-
the-art procedures. “I don’t know whether I would ultimately take medication to end
my life peacefully,” he had stated, “but I’d like to have the choice.”

For more information please visit www.compassionandchoices.org.