The Montana Legislature is considering the question of physician assisted suicide. The Senate has rejected an Oregon style bill that would have legalized such a practice. The House has passed House Bill 505, which will end the confusion about assisted suicide in Montana by stating it is illegal. I am in favor of this bill and wish to correct misconceptions recently expressed in a community forum article published within the past two weeks in the Havre Daily News.
HB 505 seeks to clarify the relevant law, which has been misinterpreted as a result of the Montana Supreme Court Baxter decision of 2009. This decision did not legalize physician assisted suicide, contrary to claims made by authors of the comnmunity forum article. The court only stated that a patient’s consent, if given, may be used as a legal defense. Lawyers are scratching their heads about the meaning and the ramifications of this decision, which is why the Legislature should act to provide needed clarity. HB 505 only addresses the aiding or solicitation of suicide, including physician assisted suicide. It specifically does not include end of life palliative care in which a dying person receives medication to alleviate pain or any act to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment authorized by the Montana Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. Passage of HB 505 would leave these rights unchanged.
Please contact your Senator by calling 406-444-4800 and tell them to end the confusion. Please tell them to vote yes on HB 505.
Dr. Rick Blevins, Great Falls