Sunday, October 14, 2012

Montana's Constitution Does Not Include a "Right to Die"

By Margaret Dore

In 1972, Montana held its Constitutional Convention.  The Bill of Rights Committee was charged with drafting a declaration of rights to be included in the constitution.  On February 2, 1972, the Committee received "Delegate Proposal 103," which proposed a right to die.[1] 

On February 3, 1972, the Committee held a hearing on the "right to die."[2]  Therein, "Mrs. Joyce Franks presented the theory to the Committee that all persons should be able to choose his own death with dignity."[3]  She also submitted a seven page document titled "Bill of Rights Speech."[4]  In this document, she proposed wording for a constitutional right to die and also discussed her father and the right to die in terms of physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.[5] 

Other persons also submitted testimony.[6]

On February 9, 1972, the Bill of Rights Committee rejected Proposal #103, the "Right to Die."[7]   

On February 12, 1972, Joe Roberts appeared before the Committee in support of the right to die.[8]  His written remarks noted the reason for the Committee's rejection of the right to die, as follows:

"[T]he consensus of the delegates I have talked to indicated that while they were sympathetic to Mrs. Frank's personal tragedy, they were afraid of the implications of stating broadly a Right to Die in the Montana Constitution.[9] 

On March 18, 1972, the Committee's "Declaration of Rights" was adopted by the full convention without the right to die.[10]

Today, the Committee's Declaration of Rights is Article II of the Montana Constitution.[11] 

With this history, there is no right to die in the Montana Constitution: it was proposed; advocated by Mrs. Franks and other persons; and rejected.

* * *

[1]  Delegate Proposal 103 proposed a right to be born and a right to die.  A copy can be viewed at 
[2] See Committee Minutes for February 3, 1972 (listing the "Subject of Hearing" as "18 year old vote, proposal #13 [and] Right to Die"), available at
[3]  Minutes, page 2 (middle of the page), available at

[4]  Mrs. Franks' testimony form and seven page document are available at 
[5]  In Mrs. Franks' materials, she talks about both euthanasia in which the patient's death is directly caused by another person, and physician-assisted suicide in which the patient takes the lethal dose.  For example, she states:  "I asked the doctor which of my medicines, and how much, I could allow Dad to take with a reasonable certainty that it would kill him.  The doctor wouldn't tell me."  See her materials at 
[6]  Kenneth Henry and Stella Fila____ also submitted testimony.  See this link:
[7]  See Committee Minutes for February 9, 1972, pp. 1 & 2 ("The following decisions were made: . . . #103- Out . . ."), available at
[8]  See Mr. Roberts' testimony form at this link: 
[9]  The above quote is from the first paragraph of Mr. Roberts' written remarks, which can be viewed on the page after the testimony form at this link: 
[10]  To see the text of the Declaration of Rights submitted to the full Convention, along with a preamble, go here:  To see the Convention's roll vote, go here:
[11]  The entire Montana Constitution can be viewed here: