Poll: Montanans overwhelmingly approve of physician-assisted aid in dying

By: - February 21, 2023 8:15 am

Dr. Colette Kirchhoff speaks before a legislative committee discussing physician-assisted death (Photo via screenshot on Montana Public Access Network).

A new poll conducted by a conservative research firm has released results from a survey of Montana residents that show that nearly 9-in-10 do not favor criminalizing a doctor who helps a person with physician-assisted suicide.

The latest on SB210

Though Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, urged the body to kill the bill for a fourth straight session, Senate Bill 210, which would effectively disallow physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill people in Montana, passed its second reading in the Senate in a 26-24 vote Tuesday. The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday whether to send the bill to the House for consideration. – Blair Miller

Montana has been a state where the practice is legal, even if not widespread. If Montana were to change the law, through Senate Bill 210, sponsored by Sen. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, it would be the first state to reverse its legal stance on allowing medical intervention during a terminal illness.

The poll, conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research, was performed Feb. 6 through 12 and surveyed 601 registered voters in Montana. It has a margin of error of +/- 4%. It was done on behalf of Compassion and Choices, which wanted to know more about the prevailing opinions and attitudes in Montana.

Seventy-five percent of Montanans believe that a mentally sound adult with an incurable terminal illness and less than six months to live should be allowed to pursue a medication that will allow them to die, and a nearly equal amount also said they wanted that option available to themselves.

The polling showed slight differences between Democrats and Republicans, with 79% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans favoring the option. Other political “wedge” issues like guns or abortion, didn’t seem to have a large difference in attitudes about the practice. For example, 66% of pro-life voters favored the option, while 79% of the voters who identified as “pro-choice” supported physician assistance in dying.

Poll numbers were also strong for those who said they were religious. Three-quarters of Catholics supported the measures, while 81% of Protestants agreed with the option.

Eighty-three percent of those surveyed said that the right should be protected in Montana, and as in the case with other questions, the answers were uniform across political parties and regardless of opinion on other topics.

Nearly 9-in-10 voters also said that a physician who aided in helping someone die via medication opposed prosecuting a doctor for homicide, one of the provisions of SB210.

The bill is up for second reading in the Montana House of Representatives on Tuesday, after passing out of committee on partisan lines, 7-to-4, with Democrats against it.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.