HELENA – The Montana Senate narrowly defeated Monday a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to help terminal patients take their own life.
The measure would have opened doctors up to possible homicide charges if they prescribe a lethal dose of medication at the request of their patients.
A 2009 state Supreme Court decision protects doctors from prosecution for the practice, though it is not explicitly allowed in state law.
The bill failed to advance after senators split 25-25 in the vote, with six Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing the measure.
Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Carl Glimm said that allowing physician-assisted death would send the wrong message to those considering suicide in the state. Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S.
Sen. Diane Sands, a Democrat from Helena, called the bill “government overreach right into your deathbed,” adding that terminally ill patients should have the option to choose how they die.
Several states allow physician-assisted suicide, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Similar measures to criminalize physicians for the practice have faltered in Montana in every legislative session in the past decade.
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