State Assisted Suicide

Many citizens feel prisoners convicted of homicide should serve their sentence and never be allowed to make another choice again – but state-assisted suicide occurs when an individual (known as an execution “volunteer”) dismisses his attorneys, gives up his appeals, and, in effect, asks the state to put him to death. This occurred in Montana with David Dawson, executed in August, 2006.

Life in prison is not an easy life – contrary to many portrayals on television. See Life Without Parole & Prison Management for more information. Some death row prisoners choose to end their lives by allowing the state to kill them because prison life is so difficult. For many, death is the easy way out. Serving out their lives in a maximum security prison is much more difficult.

Life in prison provides:

  • an opportunity for taking responsibility for their crime
  • an opportunity for redemption
  • requires that they are reminded, everyday, of their crime
  • requires severe and appropriate punishment until they die a natural death
  • does not incur severe mental trauma on state workers by asking them to kill other human beings in the name of the state
  • does not create new victims families
  • costs less than the death penalty

Should Montanans assist prisoners in their wish to die or should they require the prisoner serve our their punishment – an appropriate punishment – of life in prison, an option which allows Montana to divert the precious and costly financial resources of the death penalty toward measures that have real and measurable impacts on reducing crime.


Senator Lane Larson

Professor Jeff Renz