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SB 210 : Criminalizing the right to die with dignity by AMENDING SECTION 45-2-211, MCA (changing the definition of Physician Aid in Dying)

by Jeannie Reeves-Hansen


This bill violates constitutional rights protected under Article II, Sections 4 (Individual right of dignity) and 10 (the right to privacy) of the Montana Constitution, which includes protection of the patient’s  physician  from  prosecution  under  the  homicide statutes.


Standing in support of this unconstitutional bill was Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras, appearing on behalf of the Governor's Office. Also in support were Montana Family Foundation, an organization with strong financial support from Governor Greg Gianforte, Disability Rights Montana, and a local Great Falls family physician, Craig Treptow, M.D.


The bill suggests that acts of compassion by a physician at the request of their patients, would be committing homicide, which has already been rejected by Montana Statute with the passage of the Terminally Ill Act, as cited in Baxter v. State.


"The Terminally Ill Act by its very subject matter, is an apt statutory starting point for understanding the legislature’s intent to give terminally ill patients—like Mr.  Baxter—end-of-life autonomy,  respect  and  assurance  that  their life-ending  wishes  will  be  followed.  The  Terminally  Ill  Act  expressly  immunizes physicians  from  criminal  and  civil  liability  for  following  a  patient’s  directions  to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment."


Through the adoption of the Terminally Ill Act, the legislature has created a statutory scene "that gives terminally ill Montanans the right to autonomously choose what happens to them at the end of painful terminal illness," as recorded in the Baxter judgement.


This bill would criminalize self-directed, compassionate acts of medical care. Statutes have already been in place to protect a patient's right to end medical interventions and have interventions withheld that are considered prolonging life, and at the direct administration of the physician.  Why would a physician not be allowed to prescribe interventions, also at the request of a patient, that a patient could then choose to use to prevent prolonged suffering?


In the Senate Judiciary hearing last week, Republican members of the committee fired off distasteful questions and statements, such as, if a person has true bodily autonomy, then why aren't they allowed to sell their own body parts?  Meanwhile, proponents attempted to confuse the issue with statistics about state suicide rates and Christian family values.


One by one, opponents--a retired physician, a practicing Hospice physician, a gentleman whose spouse faces terminal pancreatic cancer, a woman whose sister died at the age of 40 from Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma  expressed heartfelt, honest accounts of how this cruel, baseless bill would impose enduring pain and suffering on their dying loved ones.


This bill is a blatant attempt to challenge the currently held statue that personal dignity, and values are protected under the right to privacy and dignity afforded to ALL Montanans under Article II, Sections 4 and 10 of the Montana Constitution. The state (government) does not have an interest in infringing on individuals' right to privacy, which includes a terminally ill patient's right to die with dignity, as they wish and under the care of a physician, with their choice of withholding care, or removing or replacing interventions, without threat of homicide charges to their physicians.


Here is the link to the ruling.

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