In 2020, we commemorate a decade of medical aid in dying in Montana and continue to empower Montanans to chart their own end-of-life journey.
Compassion & Choices works to educate Montanans, including health care professionals and health systems administrators, to ensure access to the full range of end-of-life care options and promote institutional policies that allow eligible patients to access medical aid in dying if they choose.
Compassion & Choices was instrumental in establishing Montana as the first state to authorize medical aid in dying through a court challenge.
Medical aid in dying is authorized in Montana as a result of the Montana Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Baxter v. Montana — a case brought by Compassion & Choices and four Montana doctors — which affirmed that terminally ill adults may choose medical aid in dying under state law and that it is lawful for Montana physicians to participate in the practice.
While we have successfully defended access to medical aid in dying in Montana since 2009, we still need your help to protect the Baxter ruling. Let us know if you can volunteer to protect access to medical aid in dying in Montana.
Compassion & Choices envisions a society that affirms life and accepts the inevitability of death, embraces expanded options for compassionate dying, and empowers everyone to choose end-of-life care that reflects their values, priorities and beliefs. We offer educational opportunities and tools to help people assess, define and communicate their values around end-of-life care — like our Finish Strong Tools and Plan Your Care Resource Center. We also are excited to announce the release of Finish Strong, a book by Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee. Finish Strong is for those of us who want an end-of-life experience to match the life we’ve enjoyed — defined by love, purpose and agency. It is full of stories, facts and dialogue that will help each of us prepare for latter days that reflect our values and priorities.
Montana Advance Directive
State-specific advance directives make clear your end-of-life preferences if you are unable to make or communicate medical treatment decisions yourself. For the Montana advance directive form, click here.
Compassion & Choices has worked since 2009 to protect the Baxter ruling. The Montana legislature meets every two years.
The 2019 legislative session began January 7, 2019, and the session’s first legislative attempt to challenge the Baxter ruling (HB 284) was filed shortly thereafter. The 2019 “Physician Imprisonment Act” would have criminalized physicians who honor their patients’ final wishes by prescribing medical aid-in-dying medication. It was passed by the Montana House of Representatives before being defeated on second reading in the Montana Senate by a vote of 22-27 on April 5, 2019.
On February 21, 2017, Rep. Brad Tschida introduced a bill (HB 536) that would impose harsh penalties, including prison time, for doctors who participate in medical aid in dying. The bill was narrowly defeated on the House floor. Later that same year, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 360, a bill that sought to undermine the Baxter v. Montana decision. Supporters sprung into action, including terminally-ill advocate TJ Mutchler, the courageous grandson of Baxter v. Montana plaintiff Bob Baxter. the committee rejected the bill in a bipartisan 4-7 vote.
During the 2015 legislative session, once again advocates defended access to medical aid in dying. Two bills that would have reversed the Baxter decision, HB 477 and HB 328, were successfully defeated by our intrepid volunteers and supporters.
2014 also marked the five year anniversary of the Baxter decision and prompted the production of Five Years of Dignity, a magazine detailing the progress of the end-of-life care movement in Montana.
In March 2013, Dr. Eric Kress became the first physician to speak publicly about providing medical aid in dying via testimony and a statewide newspaper editorial that received national attention in the New York Times. Dr. Kress’s legislative testimony helped defeat two bills that would have criminalized physicians who choose to write perscriptions for medical aid-in-dying medications in accordance with their patients’ end-of-life wishes.
In 2007, Bob Baxter, suffering from lymphocytic leukemia, served as lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by Compassion & Choices. Baxter asked the courts to affirm his legal right to die in a peaceful and dignified manner by taking medication prescribed by his doctor for that purpose.
Medical aid in dying became available in Montana when the state Supreme Court ruled in Baxter’s favor, in 2009, finding that “[The] Rights of the Terminally Ill Act clearly provides that terminally ill patients are entitled to autonomous end-of-life decisions.”
Montana Polling Global Strategy Group Survey (April 2013) — Seven out of 10 Montana voters (69%) support allowing a mentally competent adult who is dying of a terminal disease and in extreme pain to choose to end his or her life in a humane and dignified way.