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Remembering Dustin Hankinson

A kind and generous ally and friend of C&C, Dustin Hankinson, died the morning of May 16 at his home in Lolo, Montana. He was 42. His warm spirit was reflected in his life’s work — fighting for justice for people living with disabilities. At age 11, Dustin was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which left him in a wheelchair and later using a ventilator. Early exposure to adversity and discrimination, along with a family focus on civil service, spurred him into action in his hometown of Missoula.

For nearly a decade, Dustin also advocated for end-of-life choice: helping to authorize aid in dying in Montana and defending the law against its opponents. He became a public face for the end-of-life choice movement in the state and across the nation, blogging, writing op-eds, testifying and lobbying his legislators. He argued, “It’s not about people with disabilities; it’s about people who have a terminal illness. It’s your life, your pain, your treatment, your death — your choice.”

Dustin recognized that aid in dying is part of a wider movement, arguing that “personal choice regarding medical treatment should be a fundamental human right.” He refused to sugarcoat his struggles and brought brutal honesty to Montana politics — attending countless legislative sessions and becoming a trusted source for lawmakers and the public alike. He also drafted legislation related to disability rights and served as the chair of the Missoula County Democratic Party, as a commissioner with the Montana Human Rights Bureau and on a governor’s council. Every time what we call “a bad bill” is introduced — one that tries to curb individual choice — C&C will carry Dustin’s determination and spirit into the fight.

He left a final request: “Spread compassion, love and kindness whenever and wherever you can. Be kind to one another. ~ Peace Out ~ D.”