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Montana legislature introduces bill to charge doctors assisting in suicides

[JURIST] On Thursday the Montana House of Representatives [gov website] introduced HB 536 [text, PDF] which would allow homicide charges to be brought against doctors engaged in physician-assisted suicide. This legislation would run against the current policy of the State of Montana, which allows end of life options. In 2009 the Supreme Court of Montana ruled in Baxter v. Montana [decision, PDF] that nothing in state law made it illegal to provide a mentally competent patient drugs to hasten the patients death. This contentious topic in the state has seen both sides try to pass legislation [Daily Inter Lake] in 2011, 2013 and 2015, with no legislation succeeding for either side. The bill has garnered support from those who fear that physician-assisted suicide will be improperly used to euthanize the elderly and disabled due to lack of appropriate oversight, while those in opposition see physician-assisted suicide as a way for those suffering pain to choose just how much pain they're willing to endure.

The idea of assisted suicide or Death with Dignity has grown to be a topic of national discussion, with many states weighing in on the issue. Guest columnist Kathryn L. Tucker of End of Life Liberty Project explained the 2015 legislation that was adopted in California [JURIST op-ed], which has allowed for options to help patients who wish to achieve a peaceful death. Washington D.C. followed the thinking of California when in November they passed their own legislation which would provide death with dignity [JURIST report]. Yet this legislation was blocked [JURST report] by the US House of Representatives Oversight Committee [official website] earlier in February by a vote of 22-14, making a federal inclusion into the policy. It is clear that lawmakers across the country are grappling with this issue and how to properly approach it. Yet in Colorado during November voters were in favor [JURIST report] of a proposition on the ballot to allow death with dignity in the state.

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