BOBBY CAINA CALVAN Associated Press Mar 22, 2017
HELENA – A Montana lawmaker has revived an attempt to outlaw physician-assisted suicides, this time with a twist: There's no mention of physicians or suicides.
But Republican Sen. Albert Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon from Kalispell, acknowledged that the bill he introduced this week is a replacement measure for one that died in the House in a 50-50 vote. The measure needed at least half of all votes cast to advance.
"It died because one person mistakenly pushed the wrong button on the House floor," Olszewski said. "If that's true, then we'll give her an opportunity to redeem herself."
He was referring to Republican Rep. Peggy Webb of Billings, who had earlier voted in favor of the initial bill but accidentally, she said, cast "no" on the final vote.
The proposal is scheduled for a hearing Friday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Olszewski's bill would insert an additional definition of "deliberate homicide" in the state code. The bill seeks to rule out consent from a victim as a legal defense.
The earlier measure was explicitly directed at doctors. They could have faced homicide charges if they helped a patient die.
A 2009 state Supreme Court decision shielded doctors from prosecution if they help terminally ill patients die.
While opponents of physician-assisted suicide argue that the court's ruling did not give blanket immunity to doctors, they are pushing a revision to state law to remove any ambiguity.
"We hear so much about freedom issues around here, but so much for freedom," said Sen. Diane Sands of Missoula, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "So a person at the end of their life suffering from debilitating pain is being prevented from ending their life."
Olszewski introduced the bill as a revenue measure to meet Legislative rules that prohibit non-revenue bills from being introduced in the second half of the session. Anyone convicted of a "mitigated deliberate homicide" could face up to 40 years in prison and be fined as much as $50,000.
A more serious non-mitigated charge could lead to life imprisonment.