(Helena, Mont. – Mar. 23, 2017) A new bill (SB 360) that would allow the state of Montana to imprison doctors for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication for a terminally ill adult who requests it to peacefully end their suffering, is slated for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow, March 24 at 9:00 a.m. at the State Capitol.
By a narrow margin (a 50 to 50 tie vote) the Montana House rejected HB 536 on March 1, a bill that would have allowed the state to execute doctors for prescribing aid-in-dying medication. SB 360, introduced by Sen. Albert Olszewski (SD 6), would insert an additional definition of “deliberate homicide” in the state code and seeks to rule out patient consent as a legal defense.
Disguised as a revenue bill, which its sponsors claim will be a source of income for the state by fining doctors who provide medical aid in dying, SB 360 would overturn 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.”
“This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing stemming from the personal ideology of a certain lawmaker that will jail doctors for providing this safe, compassionate end-of-life care to terminally ill patients in agony,” said Jessica Grennan, the Missoula-based National Director of Political Affairs and Advocacy for Compassion & Choices. “It is simply another thinly veiled attempt to deny Montana citizens the freedom to live out their final days and weeks as they see fit.”
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.