HELENA — The Montana Senate has rejected a measure that would have made it illegal for doctors and caregivers to help terminally ill people kill themselves.
House Bill 505 was struck down Monday in a 27-23 floor vote after senators removed it from the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was stuck after failing to get a majority of support.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that nothing in state law prohibits assisted suicide, effectively making Montana the third state to allow it. The Legislature previously failed to pass a bill regulating the act, and this proposal would have criminalized it.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Matthew Rosendale, R-Glendive, said the plan would clarify the court ruling by unequivocally outlawing the procedure.
Other supporters of the bill said physician-assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse and the government has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable older population.
Assisted-suicide backers from both sides of the aisle argued the procedure preserves the dignity and rights of the dying.
Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, compared physician-assisted suicide rights to Second Amendment gun rights, saying the government cannot infringe on the rights of the dying even if there is potential for the abuse of an individual.
"Why should we extinguish a right for someone because of potential abuse?" Barrett said.
Barrett said only a paternalistic state would prohibit the dying from deciding when to end their life. He added that the government has no place making that decision for the terminally ill.
"I don't want the state saying that I can't trust my own wife and my own daughter," Barrett said.
Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Kalispell, echoed the Democrat's opinion, arguing the government has no business meddling in a person's end of life choices.
A similar measure was tabled earlier in the session, and a comparable bill was tabled in 2011.