Monday, April 1, 2013

Why HB 505 is Needed Now

By Margaret Dore

Last week, a Montana doctor admitted assisting three suicides during a hearing on HB 505.[1]  He claimed that his actions were legal based on the Baxter case.  Baxter did not, however, legalize assisted suicide, which has been conceded by other suicide proponents.[2], [3]  Baxter is, however, subject to ongoing controversy.    

Any counter move to protect the public, such as prosecution of the doctor, will be complicated by the controversy surrounding Baxter.  Moreover, as with any litigation, the outcome is not certain.  For this reason, the doctor's prevailing is a possibility.  If he does prevail, another possibility is that legalization of assisted suicide will occur by judicial fiat.  Whether this actually occurs will depend on the facts, the judge and other circumstances.

On the other hand, if HB 505 is enacted, there will be a clear statement going forward that assisted suicide is not legal.  The negative consequences of legalization, such as elder abuse, will be avoided.

This is why HB 505 is needed now.  To stop the confusion and protect the public.  The stakes are too high to leave the outcome to chance.

Tell your legislators to vote "Yes" on HB 505!
[1] Briana Wipf, "Emotions flow over assisted suicide during Senate hearing," Great Falls Tribune,  March 30, 2013, available at
[2] See Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman, “Analysis of Implications of the Baxter Case on Potential Criminal Liability,” Spring 2010, at
[3]  During a Senate hearing in 2011, assisted suicide proponent, Senator Anders Blewett, said:  “[U]nder current law, ... there’s nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution.”  ( ).  Dr. Stephen Speckart, another proponent, made a similar statement: "[M]ost physicians feel significant dis-ease with the limited safeguards and possible risk of criminal prosecution after the Baxter decision."  (Id. at p.2)