Tell Your State Representative and Senator: Stop Legislative Action Against Death with Dignity
Montana residents dying from a terminal illness currently have access to a Death with Dignity option at the end of life. But some lawmakers want to change that by introducing legislation that would make physicians vulnerable to legal action.
Write your State Representative and Senator to urge their “NO!” vote against anti-Death with Dignity legislation.
Legal in Montana, for now
Aid in dying is legal in Montana as a result of the 2009 Baxter v. Montana lawsuit, but it is constantly under threat by lawmakers who attempt, every session, to remove physician protections.
Timeline of Death with Dignity in Montana
Montana does not have a Death with Dignity law, but the end-of-life option is legal through a State Supreme Court ruling (which essentially ruled in 2009 there are no laws prohibiting aid in dying in Montana). Several legislative attempts to criminalize assisted dying have failed in recent years.
Representative Glimm still wants to change that. He sponsors “Prohibiting consent as a defense for physician-assisted suicide”, SB290, to eliminate physician protections. The bill fails to pass the Senate (25-25) and is set aside indefinitely by a vote of 29-21.
Montana State Representative Glimm sponsors HB284 in an effort to eliminate physician protections. The Montana State House of Representatives Judiciary Committee narrowly passes the bill 10 to 9, and the House follows with a 53 to 47 vote to pass. The State Senate votes the bill down 22 to 27 in April.
Montana State Representative Tschida sponsors HB536, which states “physician aid in dying is against public policy, and a patient’s consent to physician aid in dying is not a defense to a charge of homicide against the aiding physician.”
A hearing takes place and the bill passes with a House vote of 52 to 48. The bill ultimately fails to advance.
A Death with Dignity Act, SB167, and a bill prohibiting aid in dying are introduced in the state legislature for the first time. Neither passes; the same result occurrs in subsequent legislative sessions, in 2013 (SB220) and 2015 (SB202).
Baxter v. Montana
The Montana Supreme Court rules 5-2, in Baxter v. Montana, that nothing in state law prohibits a physician from honoring a terminally ill, mentally capable patient’s request by prescribing medication to hasten the patient’s death. The ruling cited the state’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.
Montana’s judicial approach to physician aid in dying remains unique.