Montana Defeats Bill Allowing, Regulating Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 11, 2011   |   3:55PM   |   Helena, MT

On Thursday, state lawmakers in Montana defeated a bill that would have allowed and regulated assisted suicide. The Senate Judiciary Committee defeated SB 167 that would set up rules and protections for doctors who write lethal prescriptions for drugs patients can use to kill themselves.

The bill failed on a 7-5 vote with Senator Jeff Essman, an opponent, saying “There’s inadequate protection in this bill from the powerless, it’s our obligation to protect the powerless.”

Senator Anders Blewett, the bill’s sponsor, said, “The sky is not going to fall when we tell doctors that you have immunity from honoring what Montana citizens with terminal illnesses, want them to do.”

Alex schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition emailed about the bill:

Congratulations to everyone who have worked in coalition to successfully defeat Senator Blewett’s bill SB 167 by a vote of 7 – 5 in the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 167 would have legalized assisted suicide in Montana.

Senator Hinkle’s – Elder Abuse Prevention Act – SB 116, that will reverse the Baxter court decision and prohibit assisted suicide in Montana will go to a vote soon.

I was told that the majority of the Montana Senators oppose assisted suicide, but many of them are unsure of where Montana citizens stand on the issue of assisted suicide. The Montanans against Assisted Suicide and for Living with Dignity are working to get more people to write letters and call their Legislators. At the same time the group Montanans against Assisted Suicide and for Living with Dignity is nearly out of money. Make a donation today, of any amount, to the Montanans against Assisted Suicide and for Living with Dignity – P.O. Box 2691 Big Fork Montana 59911. They need $5000 in the next week to keep up the pressure and build support for Bill SB 116 to prohibit assisted suicide.

The high court did not determine if the Montana constitution guarantees a right to assisted suicide but said nothing in state law or the precedent of the court prevented patients from getting lethal drugs from their physician.

The decision essentially had Montana joining Oregon and Washington as the only three states in the nation to allow doctors to aid patients in killing themselves.

Hinkle’s measure, to ban assisted suicide, will receive support from pro-life groups like the Montana Family Foundation, whose president, Jeff Laszloffy, said,  “I think one of the big ones we’re really going to be fighting is the legalization of assisted suicide in Montana.”

The case was an appeal of a ruling District Judge Dorothy McCarter issued last December misusing the privacy clause of the state constitution to allow people to kill themselves with the help of a physician.