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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Lawmakers Reject Criminalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide

The Montana Capitol in Helena.
Mike Albans
Montana Capitol.

Before adjourning for a mid-session hiatus, the Montana House gave final passage to a slate of bills, but rejected — on a tie vote — a proposal that sought to criminalize physician-assisted suicide.

"My belief is that nobody knows when they’re coming into the world, and I don’t believe that it’s right for them to go out of the world, especially at the hands of another because if I hand somebody a gun, knowing they’re suicidal, I can be an accomplice to homicide," says the bill's sponsor, Representative Brad Tschida of Missoula.

Tschida says his bill is in response to a 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling that says there's nothing in state law that would prohibit a physician from assisting a dying patient. He says doctors could use the patient’s request as a defense if there are criminal charges.

Opponents to HB-536 say the Legislature should not interfere in matters between dying patients, their families, and their doctors. Similar legislation also failed last session.

Lawmakers had until Wednesday to pass most proposals to the other house before the mid-session break. When they return, they begin work on finalizing a state budget and cobbling together a comprehensive infrastructure plan that has long eluded a fractured state government.

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