(Helena, Mont.) — The Montana Senate rejected SB 360 today, a bill introduced by Sen. Albert Olszewski (SD 6), that would have allowed the state of Montana to charge physicians with murder for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication for a terminally ill adult who requests it to peacefully end their suffering. The bill failed to pass by a 4 – 7 vote.
If passed, the bill would have inserted an additional definition of “deliberate homicide” in the state code and ruled out patient consent as a legal defense, as well as a clear provision that a patient’s consent is not a defense against murder charges. These provisions would have overturned the 2009 Montana Supreme Court decision in a suit filed by Compassion & Choices on behalf of a terminally ill truck driver from Billings, Bob Baxter. The court ruled in the case, Baxter v. Montana, that: “…we find no indication in Montana law that physician aid in dying provided to terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients is against public policy.”
Last Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 360, the second hearing Leslie Mutchler drove for hours in order to testify. Leslie is the mother of TJ Mutchler, and daughter of Bob Baxter. TJ utilized medical aid in dying to peacefully end his suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer on Feb. 17.
“We need to put an end to these attempts to attack physicians who wish to practice medical aid in dying once and for all,” stated Jessica Grennan, the Missoula-based National Director of Political Affairs and Advocacy for Compassion & Choices. “The will of Montanans has been honored by the State Supreme Court, and should continue to be upheld. “This has always been about the real stories of real people. The Montana Legislature should move on to other matters of importance and let the Mutchlers grieve their loss.”
Earlier this month, Compassion & Choices released a video featuring TJ and Leslie Mutchler (grandson and daughter of Bob Baxter) urging Montana lawmakers not to advance legislation to criminalize medical aid in dying, as they have done in every legislative session since the Baxter ruling. TJ Mutchler utilized medical aid in dying less than two months ago to end intolerable suffering from pancreatic cancer. The video is posted at: bit.ly/TJmutch
Nearly 7 out 10 Montana voters (69%) said they 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, according to Global Strategy Group survey in April 2013.