House panel debates penalties for assisted suicide

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana House panel is considering a bill to criminalize assisted suicides and penalize the doctors and caregivers who participate in them.

House Judiciary Chairman Krayton Kearns told his committee Wednesday that his bill would prohibit elder abuse. Other supporters of the Laurel Republican's House Bill 505 say end-of-life palliative care is enough to aid in the process of death.

Opponents say the measure would limit the choices of those with terminal or severely debilitating illnesses and put health-care professionals at risk of prosecution.

The Legislature has been asked to clarify the issue since a 2009 state Supreme Court ruling that nothing in state law prohibits physician-assisted suicide.

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill regulating assisted suicide in the 2011 session. Last week, a Senate committee tabled a similar measure.

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