Friday, March 8, 2013

Support HB 505, to protect Montanans from Assisted Suicide

Statement supporting HB 505

This statement was also printed on March 15 in the Bozman Daily Chronicle.

By Bradley Williams - Montanans Against Assisted Suicide.

House Bill 505 will end the confusion over assisted suicide in Montana.  The bill’s other purpose is to prevent the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.  

Assisted suicide means that someone provides the means and/or information for another person to commit suicide.  When a physician is involved, the practice is physician-assisted suicide.[1]

Assisted suicide is opposed by the American Medical Association and disability rights groups such as the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and Not Dead Yet.[2]  Assisted suicide is also opposed by the 4000 plus Montanans who have signed our petition against assisted suicide.  Their concerns include elder abuse and steerage of themselves or their family members to suicide.
Other States

In the last two years, three states have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide.[3]  These states are Idaho, Georgia and Louisiana.[4]  There are only two states where assisted suicide is legal: Oregon and Washington.  In these two states, the following problems have emerged. 

Throwing away your life

The Oregon and Washington laws allow a doctor to prescribe a  lethal drug to a patient predicted to have less than six months to live.  Predictions of life expectancy can, however, be wrong and treatment can lead to recovery.  Consider Oregon resident, Jeanette Hall, who was diagnosed with cancer and adamant that she would “do” Oregon’s law.  Her doctor convinced her to be treated instead.  Now, twelve years later, “she is thrilled to be alive.” [5] Legal assisted suicide encourages people with many quality years left to throw away their lives.[6]

Elder abuse

The Oregon and Washington laws have significant gaps so that people who use these laws are unprotected from abuse.  The most obvious gap is a complete lack of oversight when the lethal drug is administered.  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or for someone else who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the drug to the patient without his consent.   Even if he struggled, who would know?  These laws create the opportunity for the perfect crime.[7]


In Oregon, legalization of assisted suicide has empowered the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) to steer patients to suicide.  Specifically, the Plan denies coverage for treatment and offers to pay for suicide instead.  For more detail, see the affidavit of Dr. Ken Stevens, ¶¶ 8 to 12, at: 

House Bill 505

HB 505 clarifies Montana’s existing prohibition against “aiding or soliciting suicide” by expressly stating that physician-assisted suicide is an offense.[8]

HB 505 also gives doctors a clear safe harbor in which they are free to perform palliative care and/or to withhold or withdraw treatment under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.[9]  In other words, the law regarding palliative care and withholding or withdrawing treatment remains unchanged. 

Why Legislators Should Vote “Yes”
HB 505 is needed because the Montana Supreme Court decision, Baxter v. State, has created uncertainty in the law.  Baxter did not legalize assisted suicide, but the decision is confusing.  This has allowed suicide proponents to falsely and aggressively claim that assisted suicide is “already legal.”  Indeed, the proponents are actively recruiting doctors to perform assisted suicides.

Under HB 505, the law will instead be clarified that physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.  There will be a clear tool for law enforcement, the medical profession and other interested parties to protect citizens from the negative consequences of assisted suicide legalization.

For more information about why HB 505 is the right step for Montana, see: 

Please tell your legislators to vote “yes” on HB 505.

*Bradley Williams is President of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS).  He can be reached at 406 531 0937 and 

[1]  The American Medical Association (AMA) states "Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act." (AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211).
[2]  The AMA's opposition to physician-assisted suicide is set forth here:  The opposition of the Disability Rights Education Defense Fund and Not Dead Yet is set forth here and here.
[3]  Margaret Dore, US Overview, at:
[4]  Id.
[5]  See Affidavit of Kenneth Stevens, MD, Leblanc v. Canada¶¶ 3 to 6, at: 
[6]  Id, ¶ 7.
[7]  For more information, see: Margaret K. Dore, "'Death with Dignity': What Do We Advise Our Clients?," King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009; Margaret Dore, "'Death with Dignity': A Recipe for Elder Abuse and Homicide (Albeit not by Name)," Marquette Elder's Advisor, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 2010; and Margaret Dore, Oregon's New Statistics, at: 
[8]  HB 505 can be viewed here: 
[9]  Id. at lines 26 to 28 regarding Title 50, Chapters 9 & 10 (the Rights of the  Terminally Ill Act is Chapter 9, see:

No comments: