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. I am in favor of this bill and wish to clarify misconceptions expressed in a Viewpoint article published March 4.
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 Viewpoint 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 that may incidentally hasten the dying person’s death or any act to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment” authorized by the Montana Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. The quotes are directly from the text of HB 505.
Please contact your senators and tell them to end the confusion. Please tell them to vote “yes” on HB 505.— Rick Blevins, M.D.,