Idaho Senate Approves Bill Making Assisted Suicide a Felony

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 13, 2011   |   4:48PM   |   Boise, ID

While surrounding states like Washington and Oregon pushed ahead to become the first in the nation to legalize assisted suicide and Montana could be right behind them, Idaho passed a bill to make the practice a felony.

The Idaho Senate voted overwhelmingly Friday to do that and to revoke licenses from physicians who prescribe a lethal cocktail of drugs for patients to use to kill themselves. The law also allows people to get injunctions to prevent others from killing themselves with a doctor’s help. If it becomes law, those found guilty face five years in prison.

Sen. Russ Fulcher, a Republican who sponsored the bill, noted the pro-suicide laws of neighboring states when lobbying for the bill.

“It is a slippery slope to say the least,” he told the Senate. “To me, that kind of standard of care … sends a message to our elderly people.”

The pro-life group Idaho Chooses Life commented on passage of the measure.

“The Idaho Senate approved SB1070 on Friday morning by an overwhelming 31-2 vote, with two members of the Senate missing from the floor,” its director David Ripley told his members in an email. “SB1070 is a top legislative priority for Idaho Chooses Life.”

“Fulcher led debate for the bill, pointing out that the legislation was intended to protect current medical care standards in Idaho. He was joined by Sen. Steve Vick, one of the co-sponsors, in pointing out that Idaho’s current lack of statute in this area leaves us vulnerable to the efforts of groups like Compassion & Choices – the organization that brought assisted suicide to Montana, Oregon and Washington,” he added.

Several Democrats voted for the legislation, including Sen. Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai of Pocatello. The bill now goes to the state House for a hearing.