A presentation by Dr. Tom Preston, the medical director for the Washington state branch of Compassion & Choices, elicited a variety of reactions from 16 people in the audience at Montana State University-Northern on Monday.
Compassion & Choices is a death-with-dignity advocacy organization.
Preston gave a 40-minute presentation on the physician-assisted death policies that are in place in his home state of Washington and in Oregon. He spoke of some concerns physicians and patients deal with in these states.
“This is about relief of suffering,” Preston said. “There are of course many other concerns, but suffering is the bottom line.”
The audience was made up of interested individuals, local nurses and politicians.
State Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, asked questions about some of those “other concerns.”
“I think it opens a big can of worms that begs for clearer policy to be made,” Warburton said.
The issue has been a source of debate in Montana since the Baxter v. Montana Supreme Court decision in December.
The decision stated there was nothing in Montana statutes to prosecute a doctor for assisting a patient in dying, but left it open to legislation.
Parties on both sides of the issue have already drafted this legislation. It is already one of the big issues to be discussed in January’s legislative session.
Pam Hillery, a Havre city councilwoman, asked Dr. Preston about her mother’s recent struggle, not so much with pain but the loss of autonomy that comes with terminal care. Preston said that was one of leading reasons patients request the process.
Hillery said the issue is an important one that everyone should be aware of.
“Would I choose it? I don’t know,” Hillery said, “But I think I should have the option.”
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