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Bill To Imprison Doctors For Aid In Dying Advances In Montana, Despite Voter Opposition

Montana is Outlier as Other States Consider Bills Backing End-of-Life Choice

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The nation's leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization urged the Montana Senate and Governor Steve Bullock to reject a bill passed Wednesday in the Montana House of Representatives by a 51-46 vote that would imprison doctors for up to 10 years if they provide aid in dying.

"Threatening doctors with 10 years in jail for honoring a terminally ill patient's request for aid in dying violates the sacred doctor-patient relationship and the views of most Montana voters," said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, a nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before becoming a private attorney, counsel to the Oregon Senate and a Chief Petitioner of the first-in-the nation 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act. "Taking away the option of aid in dying would exacerbate the suffering of dying patients."

A 2010 Binder Research poll showed an overwhelming majority of Democratic, Republican and Independent voters in Montana "support allowing dying patients in severe distress to make their own end-of-life choice to receive a prescription for life-ending medication." If the bill, HB505, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Krayton Kerns (R- Laurel), is enacted into law, it would gut a 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling in Baxter v. Montana, a case brought by Compassion & Choices, confirming that it is not against public policy in Montana for a physician to provide aid in dying to a mentally competent, terminally ill person. 

"The Senate and Governor Bullock must honor the views of their constituents by rejecting this draconian bill to take away the right of mentally competent people to make their own medical decisions," said Coombs Lee. "Other state legislatures are moving to protect this legal right, not deny it."

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