Compassion & Choices Praises Bipartisan Group of Legislators for Rejecting Physician Imprisonment Act
(Helena, MT – Feb. 17, 2015) Compassion & Choices praised the Montana House for rejecting a bill that would have charged a doctor with homicide for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who wants that option to end their suffering. Doctors also would have lost their license to practice medicine under the bill, which would trump a Montana State Supreme Court ruling.
A bipartisan group of legislators voted 51 to 49 to reject the bill, HB328, which opponents call “The Physician Imprisonment Act.” The Montana House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday on another draconian bill, HB477, that would imprison a doctor or up to 10 years for writing an aid-in-dying prescription. A 2013 poll showed 69% of Montana voters support authorizing physicians to write prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication.
“We thank the House for rejecting this bill that would have charged physicians who honor a dying patient’s request for medical aid in dying with homicide and take away their medical license.” said Compassion & Choices Montana Campaign Manager Emily Bentley. “Now we urge the House not to reverse course on HB 328 on the final reading of the bill and to reject HB 477 that would put doctors who practice aid in dying in prison for up to 10 years.”
In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Baxter v. Montana that state law authorizes physicians to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill adult who requests it. The Court said: “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act clearly provides that terminally ill patients are entitled to autonomous end-of-life decisions.” The court required four safeguards: The patient must be 1) terminally ill, 2) mentally competent, 3) over 18 years old, and 4) must self-administer the medication. Five years later, many doctors across Montana have written aid-in-dying prescriptions for terminally ill people who request it.