By Dave Andrusko
Montana lawmakers, by the narrowest of margins, turned down yet another attempt to ban assisted suicide.
“Senate Bill 210, sponsored by Sen. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, passed an initial vote Tuesday by a two-vote margin, with 26 Republicans in favor and a bipartisan coalition of 24 lawmakers voting,” Mara Silvers reported. “That margin flipped when lawmakers reconsidered the bill Wednesday, with one senator changing his vote in the affirmative and three others switching sides to oppose the bill.”
Time is running out. The Legislature’s transmittal deadline is March 3, “the date by which policy bills must pass from one chamber to the other in order to survive,” Silvers wrote.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized assisted suicide. Montana is in a different situation.
“Similar legislation to SB 210 has been brought consistently since 2009, the year the Montana Supreme Court ruled that physicians who prescribe lethal medications to a terminally ill person at the end of their life can use the patient’s consent as a legal defense to homicide charges,” according to Silvers. “That decision in Baxter v. State created a legal loophole for physicians to prescribe aid in dying for patients.”
SB 210’s six supporters included Disability Rights Montana, the Montana Catholic Conference, and Lt. Gov. Kristin Juras speaking on behalf of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration.
Juras agreed with Sen. Glimm about the need to firmly oppose suicide for any and all Montanans, including older adults and those with terminal medical conditions, Silvers reported.
“I think elder people are vulnerable,” Juras said. “I took care of my parents. My father on several occasions said, ‘I don’t want to be a burden. Is there a way that I can go?’ And it was our job as a society, as his children, to stand up and say, ‘You are valuable. You are valuable in the midst of suffering. We are going to get through this. Suicide is not the solution.’”