December 31, 2019, marked 10 years since the landmark Baxter v. Montana ruling, which authorized medical aid in dying in Montana. Compassion & Choices continues efforts on the ground in Montana to educate and empower residents to learn about their end-of-life options and to protect medical aid in dying from legislative attacks.
Bob Baxter volunteered to be the lead plaintiff in Compassion & Choices’ case to bring the option to terminally ill Montanans. He was a Marine veteran, outdoorsman and career long-haul truck driver living in Billings. Bob suffered from lymphocytic leukemia, a painful disease with no known cure. He died before the option he fought for became available to him, but as his daughter, Leslie Mutchler, says, “He decided that he was going to continue on with the lawsuit because he wanted it to be available for other people; it was that important to him that people have a choice.”
Leslie’s son, TJ Mutchler, utilized medical aid in dying at the age of 36 in 2016. It provided him peace of mind, says Leslie: “It gave him that freedom of knowing that when it got to be too much, he could use it, and he got more life and we got more time together because he knew he had the choice.” Bob Baxter never could have known that his grandson would use the option he fought for. Leslie continues to stay involved in the end-of-life options movement in Montana, saying, “I can get the word out so that people are talking to each other about it and talking to their physicians about it, getting it out in the open.”