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Assisted-suicide bill put to rest

Charlie Butts   ( Thursday, February 14, 2013

The attempt to legalize assisted suicide has gone down in defeat in Montana -- for now. Opponents of the measure, while pleased, remain alert for any other attempt to legalize it.

Montana flagSB 220 was designed to clarify an earlier ruling by the Montana Supreme Court, but the end result would have been legalization of physician-assisted suicide. Bradley Williams heads Montanans Against Assisted Suicide.

"It was a legalization of assisted suicide bill," he tells OneNewsNow. "It was in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it was what is often called a 'model' bill. It was modeled after [similar laws in] Oregon and Washington, [and] it had the same flaws in the laws that those laws have."

The committee voted the bill down 7-5 and then tabled it until 2015.

As Williams explains, the push in the legislature from both sides of the debate stems from a Montana Supreme Court decision (Baxter v. State of Montana), which he says did not clarify anything.

"All they said was they acknowledged that assisted suicide is a homicide in Montana, but that if a doctor was charged with a homicide he has a potential defense based on consent [of the patient]," he offers.

In that 2009 ruling, the Montana Supreme Court vacated a lower-court decision that a person has a constitutional right to assisted suicide.

Meanwhile, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide is pushing a bill in the house to clarify the situation in order to prevent the practice. Williams says assisted suicide is a prescription for abuse of the elderly and the disabled.

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