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Montanans place a high value on freedom from government interference in their lives and decisions. Sometimes, this value transcends traditional conservative or liberal points of view, as in the case of medical aid in dying.

Some refer to this inaccurately as "assisted suicide." There is a vast difference between the thoughtful decision a suffering, terminally ill person makes to determine the time and manner of their death, surrounded by family and friends, versus the heartbreaking choice made by suicidal people who end their lives, often violently and always tragically.

As a clinical psychologist and cancer survivor, I bring professional and personal experiences and insights to this discussion. People who are approaching the end of their lives due to terminal illness should be able to end their suffering in a thoughtful, carefully-planned act. Making sure that doctors who provide the option known as medical aid in dying are not punished for helping their dying patients achieve their end-of-life wishes is important.

When life draws to a close, not everyone will be interested in accessing medical aid in dying to end their suffering. But some Montanans will, and we should not deny them, or ultimately, ourselves, this very basic human right. House Bill 284 restricts options at the end of life, punishes doctors and is bad public policy for Montana.

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Rita Sommers-Flanagan

Absarokee

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