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Comprehensive “Five Years of Dignity” Chronicles People and Events That Give Montanans End-of-Life Freedom

2009 Ruling in Baxter v. Montana Ensures Liberty, Is Under Threat

Montanans owe their freedom to die with dignity to innumerable individuals, past and present. Heroes like Bob Baxter, a former Marine who allowed his imminent death to become the basis of the landmark legal ruling, and his daughter Roberta, who shares her late father’s commitment to end-of-life liberty. Champions like Mark Connell, the lawyer who argued Baxter’s case to end his suffering before the cancer made his life torture, and jurists like Dorothy McCarter and James Nelson, who ruled in favor of compassion in the Baxter case.

To celebrate the pioneers who brought death with dignity to Montana, and the fighters who protect that freedom every day, Compassion & Choices Montana has issued a groundbreaking and comprehensive report called Five Years of Dignity: The Baxter Ruling and End-of-Life Freedom in Montana. You can read the report here.

Thousands of Big Sky residents over the years have organized and advocated for access to aid in dying. Compassionate volunteers and committed citizens help fellow Montanans understand that peace of mind and personal autonomy are at the heart of death with dignity, and that it is worth defending against those who would roll back Baxter’s freedoms.

So far, legislators from across the political spectrum have listened to their constituents, and to the overwhelming majority of Montanans who want to preserve access to aid in dying, and efforts to undermine Baxter have failed.

So far, anyway. Right now, there are legislators in the state capitol aiming to pass a law that would criminalize aid in dying. That means someone like Dr. Eric Kress, a physician in Missoula who has spoken publicly and testified to helping his dying patients achieve a peaceful death on their own terms, would go to jail. This new law would also make Ethel Byrnes and her sons criminals for standing by their father, Erwin Byrnes, and holding his hand as he drifted off after taking his aid in dying prescription.

Read Five Years of Dignity and meet the courageous, independent Montanans who are part of the nationwide movement for death with dignity. Meet the principled lawmakers, the generous physicians, the campaign experts and the tireless volunteers who make sure the court ruling that bears Bob Baxter’s name continues to protect the very freedoms he wanted for his fellow Montanans.

Also visit a new online feature! Intimate portraits of 42 Montanans using 6 words to say why they believe in death with dignity. View the slideshow here.