Montana House passes bill to stop assisted suicide

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Montana House

Montana House

Montana came one step closer to closing the door on assisted suicide. Yesterday, the Montana House passed House Bill 477, a bill that includes physician-assisted suicide within the current state law that prohibits "aiding or soliciting suicide."

For the past few years Montana has faced a confusing situation with respect to assisted suicide. In 2009, the Baxter court decision declared that Montana citizens had a right to assisted suicide. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court in Montana that decided that Montana citizens do not have a right to assisted suicide. The Court did not overturn the statute protecting Montana citizens from assisted suicide, but the Court did grant a tightly worded defense of consent, if a physician was prosecuted for assisted suicide.

Therefore physician-assisted suicide remains illegal in Montana, if prosecuted, a physician could use a defense of consent.

According to the Revalli Republic news Rep. Jerry Bennett, the sponsor of the bill, stated that the bill faces a final vote today before it can advance to the Montana Senate. Bennett stated:

Montana already has a high suicide rate, and that in Oregon, which allows assisted suicide, the suicide rate is much higher than the national average.

Senate Bill 202, a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide in Montana was defeated last month at the Senate Judiciary Committee.