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Compassion & Choices recently hosted a statewide webinar with dozens of passionate volunteer advocates to discuss protecting access to the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying in Montana.
Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan shared the latest news on our work to ensure access to the full range of end-of-life care options. They include the legal right of mentally capable, terminally ill adults in Montana, eight other states and Washington, D.C., to obtain a doctor’s prescription for medication they may take to die peacefully in their sleep, avoiding needless suffering.
“We are all part of a nationwide movement,” said Callinan, “that is going to help to change the dynamic and create greater awareness about the importance of autonomy and compassion at life's end.”
Compassion & Choices was one of the plaintiffs in the Montana Supreme Court’s landmark 2009 Baxter v. Montana case, which authorized medical aid in dying in the state:
In each legislative session over the last decade since the ruling, opponents of medical aid in dying have attempted to pass legislation to overturn Baxter. The most recent legislative challenges have focused on criminalizing Montana doctors who choose to participate in the practice, including penalties as severe as the death penalty for doctors who prescribe aid-in-dying medication.
Nearly seven out of 10 Montana voters (69%) support medical aid in dying, according to a Global Strategy Group Survey.
Northwest Regional Campaign Manager Jennifer Parrish Taylor spoke during the nearly 55-minute webinar about the potential for new legislative and gubernatorial leadership who may not support or be openly opposed to medical aid in dying as a compassionate end-of-life care option.
“Compassion & Choices Montana is working to ensure that a patient has access to all end-of-life [care] options (which includes) a supportive health care system,” said Parrish Taylor. “The goal of the access campaign is to educate the public, empower individuals, educate healthcare systems, and provide assistance for supportive policy developments.”
She reminded volunteers that it will ultimately be their voices that make the difference in whether terminally ill adults in Montana may continue to make the decision for themselves whether to utilize medical aid in dying to ensure they have a peaceful death.
Parrish Taylor stressed the many ways Montanans can stay involved in the cause: emailing their legislators, writing an op-ed, attending local events, and testifying at hearings, to name a few. Those Montanans with a personal experience to share may want to become a storyteller and record a video.
Montana is the only state where medical aid in dying has been authorized by a court decision. The nine other jurisdictions where the practice is authorized — Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Hawaiʻi, New Jersey and Maine — did so through legislation or ballot initiatives.