The Montana Senate Judiciary Committee voted this morning to reject SB 116, a bill that would have revoked the right of terminally ill patients to request and receive aid in dying from their physicians. The controversial bill failed in committee by a seven to five margin, with two Republicans crossing over to vote with the Democrats.
In a landmark 2009 ruling, the Montana Supreme Court recognized the right of patients, under existing statutes, to direct end-of-life care, even when such decisions might advance the time of death, finding these statutes to reflect a broad public policy in favor of patient autonomy.
Missoula attorney Mark Connell, who argued the case before the Montana Supreme Court, described the decision as “a victory for individual rights over government control. These are decisions that should be — and now can continue to be — made by the terminally ill patients whose lives, deaths and suffering are at stake, based on their own religious, spiritual and family beliefs.”
By rejecting SB 116, "AN ACT PROHIBITING AID IN DYING" (sponsored by the same Sen. Greg Hinkle who recently introduced legislation legalizing hunting with spears), Montana remains one of three states, including Oregon and Washington, to legally recognize death with dignity.