Montana Supreme Court Rules Assisted Suicide Legal
January 1, 2010
(ChattahBox) – The Montana Supreme Court vacated a trial judge’s ruling and has ruled that doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill is legal. The Supreme Court opinion will now give doctors in the state the freedom to help their patients “die with dignity” and prescribe the necessary drugs to mentally competent, terminally ill patients without fear of being prosecuted, advocates said.
Ruling on Baxter v. Montana, a case filed by a Billings truck driver Robert Baxter (who has since died), but wanted his doctors to administer a lethal dose of medication after being diagnosed with leukemia, the court said it found “nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy:”
… We find nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy. The “against public policy” exception to consent has been interpreted by this Court as applicable to violent breaches of the public peace. Physician aid in dying does not satisfy that definition. We also find nothing in the plain language of Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy. In physician aid in dying, the patient– not the physician–commits the final death-causing act by self-administering a lethal dose of medicine.
The Montana case has drawn wide national attention, with advocates for physician-assisted suicide weighing in on the side of Baxter and his doctors lining up against conservative groups like the Alliance Defense Fund and the Family Research Council sided with Montana’s attorney general against physician-aided suicide. Oregon and Washington state also allow assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, with Oregon adopting the nation’s first ”death with dignity” law in 1997.