C&C Helps Quash Montana’s “Doctor Death Penalty Act”

March 8, 2017
Leslie Mutchler and her late son, TJ

Leslie Mutchler and her late son, TJ

The Montana House reversed course March 1 and rejected a bill that would have allowed the state to execute doctors for writing a prescription for aid-in-dying medication for a terminally ill adult who requests it to peacefully end their suffering. The House failed to pass the bill, HB 536, it approved the previous day by a 52 to 48 vote, after two legislators switched from yea to nay votes, resulting in a 50 to 50 tie vote, stopping the bill’s progress.

HB 536 would have overturned the 2009 Montana Supreme Court decision in a suit filed by Compassion & Choices on behalf of a terminally ill truck driver from Billings, Bob Baxter. The court ruled in the case, Baxter v. Montana, that: “… we find no indication in Montana law that physician aid in dying provided to terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients is against public policy.”

“Medical aid in dying enabled my son TJ to enjoy the last few months of his life, knowing he could peacefully end his suffering when it became unbearable,” said Bob Baxter’s daughter, Leslie Mutchler, a nurse practitioner from Billings. Her son, TJ Mutchler, is Baxter’s grandson and died Feb. 19. “Thankfully, my father’s dying gift to other terminally ill Montanans is secure for the time being. I hope and pray our lawmakers stop trying to criminalize compassionate doctors who want to honor their suffering patient’s wishes to die peacefully.”

Supporters in Montana responded to C&C’s calls to action, contacting House members and urging them to reject the bill. And last Thursday, Compassion & Choices released a video featuring TJ and Leslie Mutchler urging Montana lawmakers not to advance legislation to criminalize medical aid in dying, as they have done in every legislative session since the Baxter ruling.

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