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2013 MT Legislature

Feb 11, 2013 9:06 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

MT lawmakers discuss "death with dignity" proposal

HELENA - MT State Senator Dick Barrett (D-Missoula) wants terminally ill patients to have the opportunity to die with dignity and without suffering.

During a hearing on Monday, supporters of the bill told emotional stories about loved ones who suffered in their last days and wanted alternatives.

The bill would establish a medical protocol for terminally ill patients who wish to die.

Barrett drafted the proposal in response to a Supreme Court decision which states there is nothing in Montana law prohibiting or allowing physician-assisted suicide.

The bill states the patient must be acting on their own behalf and must be fully informed of their decision.

Karen Nelson, a retired hospice worker, said, "In my career there has been a handful of patients that I have sat with and their suffering could not be alleviated with any means that we had at our disposal. Those people when you sit with them and they beg for some kind of relief from their suffering, those people still haunt me today."

Opponents of the bill say family members could use this legislation to take advantage of their dying relatives.

They also say doctors aren't always accurate when diagnosing, so it could potentially lead to patients ending their lives when they aren't terminal.

Some testified their religious beliefs prevent them from considering this law ethical.

MT State Representative David Halvorson (R-Sidney) said, "Murder is an attack on the supremacy and authority of God. If murder by another person is an attack on that human dignity and an attack on the image of God, then murder of oneself is a similar attack."

A similar bill was introduced during the 2011 legislative session, but it did not make it out of committee.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

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