Friday, April 5, 2013

Montana HB 505, a bill to protect people from assisted suicide continues.

An article written by Brian Wipf and published on April 4 in the Great Falls Tribune examines the politics surrounding Montana bill HB 505, a bill that would clarify and protect people from assisted suicide in Montana.

The article begins explaining the HB 505, which passed in the Montana House, tied in the Senate Judiciary committee by a 6 to 6 vote. The article stated:
The committee voted 6-6 on the bill, which leaves it in limbo in committee for now, a bill ... introduced by Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel.
The article set the stage by interviewing supporters and opposition to HB 505.
Supporters of HB 505 said the decision merely gives physicians a potential defense if they are charged with a felony for aiding in a patient’s dying. Opponents insist the Baxter Decision legalized aid-in-dying, so HB 505 would effectively negate the court’s decision. 
Proponents of what they call physician aid-in-dying say it is a person’s autonomous decision to end his or her life and that doctors providing aid-in-dying to patients can put an end to unnecessary suffering of patients in the throes of a terminal illness. 
Opponents, who prefer the term physician-assisted suicide, say coercion and elder abuse will become even more rampant if providers were allowed to aid in their patients’ deaths. 
Dr. Paul Gorsuch, a Great Falls neurological surgeon, helped spearhead a doctors’ campaign against physician-assisted suicide that included 112 physicians throughout Montana. The group of physicians took out an ad before the March 25 hearing in Montana newspapers, including the Tribune, declaring their support for HB 505. 
Gorsuch said the solidarity of the physicians, whose names were gathered in just five to seven days, was “extraordinary. ... I’ve been in the state since 1989, and I’ve never seen doctors agree (in this way) on a non-pocketbook issue.” 
Even within the medical community, the issue is contentious, however. Physicians testified both in favor of and against HB 505. 
Kerns said the bill could still be “blasted” through the Senate if enough votes can be assured. But he said he doubts that will happen. 
“There was a tremendous amount of public input leading up to the decision,” Kerns said.
Compassion & Choices Montana covered up their disappointment that SB 220, a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide, was defeated in the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee. The article stated:
Emily Bentley, campaign manager for Compassion and Choices Montana, an end-of-life advocacy group, said opponents of HB 505 suspected the bill would be tabled based on the fate of similar bills in the 2011 legislative session. 
Bentley said proponents of physician aid-in-dying do not believe the Baxter Decision needs to be codified in the Legislature. 
“We think (the Baxter Decision) is clear,” she said. 
And while Compassion and Choices supported SB 220, introduced by Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, Bentley said the group does not consider legislation necessary. 
Bentley pointed out that a Missoula doctor, Dr. Eric Kress, admitted at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to providing physician aid-in-dying to his patients. That changes the playing field, she said.
Bradley Williams from the Montanans Against Assisted Suicide told the Great Falls Tribune that they intend to blast HB 505 to the Senate floor. The article stated:
Bradley Williams, president of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, said he hopes to gain enough support to blast the bill through the Senate. 
“I don’t know we’ll have the support, but I can tell you this, I’m getting Democratic support, and it’s not done yet,” Williams said. 
If HB 505 fails to get enough votes to blast it through the Senate, Kerns said he believes the issue will linger to the next session. 
“What you’re going to see is the pro-euthanasia crowd … continue to advance the theory that it’s legal and they’re not correct,” said Kerns. “But yes, it will be addressed again. It will show up in the next legislative session.”
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition predicts that HB 505 will gain the necessary votes in the blast to go to a vote in the Montana Senate. Congratulations to the Montanans Against Assisted Suicide and their allies in getting HB 505 to the stage of victory, to protect Montana Citizens from Assisted Suicide.

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