HELENA, Mont. — A bill that would effectively ban physician-assisted suicide in Montana had its first floor debate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 210 would change Montana code to state that a physician “purposefully and knowingly prescribing a lethal dose of medication to a patient” is against public policy. It also states that a patient’s consent cannot be used as a defense if the physician is charged with homicide.
An amendment added to the bill in committee exempts withholding or withdrawing a life-sustaining treatment or procedure, such as taking a suffering patient off life-support.
SB 210 cleared the Senate Floor on second reading Tuesday in a narrow 26-24 vote, despite opposition from all Democrats and eight Republicans..
“This needs to be the solution. We need to be consistent in our message and tell the citizens of Montana that suicide is not the answer,” said State Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Kila).
“I don’t think we should be taking away this freedom from Montanans who are terminally ill and who are suffering,” said State Sen. Jen Gross (D-Billings). “I believe that terminally ill Montanans deserve some glimmer of hope, control and dignity as they approach the end of their lives.”
The bill had its initial committee hearing on Feb. 1 in the Senate Judiciary and passed its first reading along party lines the following week. A third reading is expected on Wednesday, and it would then head to the House if approved.
Efforts to pass similar bills in previous legislative sessions have been unsuccessful, but this bill has the vocal support of Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras.