Mixed message emanating from Montana

Mixed message emanating from Montana

Mixed message emanating from Montana

Residents and electors in Big Sky Country will have to wait to deal with the subject of doctor-assisted suicide.

The popular view is that assisted suicide is legal in Montana because of a 2009 decision from the Montana Supreme Court – but not so. The court's decision in Baxter v. Montana provided a possible defense for a doctor who helped someone commit suicide if they consented – but it did not legalize assisted suicide.

Jeff Laszloffy of the Montana Family Foundation explains the give-and-take going on.

"We haven't been able to make it illegal and the other side has not been able to legalize it," he tells AFN. "So, we're sort of stuck in this no-man's land between the two, and we know that assisted suicide is happening on rare occasions. But no one has been charged with the crime of homicide … and that's what assisted suicide is still listed as in Montana."

Montana Senate Bill 210, submitted this session, would have banned assisted suicide. The measure failed – but only by a narrow margin.

"Well, it always has been close – and the legislature just for one reason or another just can't seem to come down on one side or the other," Laszloffy explains. "Montana has a pretty strong libertarian bent, and so there's legislators who feel like they shouldn't tell somebody what to do with their own life."

Montana has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the U.S. But proponents of assisted suicide say it's okay for the ailing or aging population to kill themselves because of their mental and health problems.