Montana Legislature

Feb 21, 2013 10:23 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Assisted suicide bill debated in Helena

HELENA - Montanans who want the option of ending their own life with a doctor's help told lawmakers in Helena on Wednesday why they should have that right.

Doctors and patients testified on a bill which would prohibit physician assisted suicide.

The legislation provides for stiff penalties if a doctor prescribes a terminally ill patient life-ending drugs, and the physician would face 10 years in prison or a $50,000 fine.

Supporters say the bill prevents elder abuse and doctor misconduct.

"Doctors are held in high esteem by the public. But they would significantly undermine their public trust in their profession by aiding in killing their patients. Therefore, we need to close the door for good on physician assisted suicide," Big Sky resident Ted Friesen said.

But opponents say these end of life decisions need to be left between the doctor and the patient and not the government. They also say it could lead to imprisonment of doctors.

"I plead with this committee. Let me listen to my patients. Let me honestly answer their questions. Let me respect their constitutionally protected rights. Let me continue to deserve their trust.," Dr. Kenneth Eden with the American College of Physicians testified.

The proposed bill does not apply to comfort care at the end of someone's life.

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