Sunday, October 25, 2009

Right to die in Montana?

May a physician help a terminally ill patient commit suicide? Or is that a terminally repugnant transaction, which even a willing patient and physician should be prevented by law from completing?

The question has been raised in Montana, and will go to the state supreme court: Montana Court to Rule on Assisted Suicide Case

"Washington and Oregon allow physicians to help terminally ill people hasten their deaths, but in those states the laws were approved by voters in statewide referendums, and neither state’s highest court has examined the issue of a constitutional right to die.
In Montana, the question will be decided by the seven-member State Supreme Court. A lower-court judge ruled in Mr. Baxter’s favor last December — on the very day Mr. Baxter died — and the State of Montana appealed the ruling."
"“There are moral arguments, philosophical arguments on both sides, bioethical arguments on both sides, even medical and public health arguments on both sides,” Anthony Johnstone, the state solicitor at the Montana attorney general’s office, who will argue the case for the state, said in defense of current laws that prohibit physician-assisted death. "
"“This case is part of a journey,” said Ms. Tucker, who is director of legal affairs for Compassion and Choices, a national group that advocates to protect and expand the rights of the terminally ill and is also one of the plaintiffs. “It’s about empowering patients and giving them the right to decide when they have suffered enough.”"

Update: Dec 31, 2009. Montana Ruling Bolsters Doctor-Assisted Suicide
"The Montana Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that state law protects doctors in Montana from prosecution for helping terminally ill patients die. But the court, ruling with a narrow majority, sidestepped the larger landmark question of whether physician-assisted suicide is a right guaranteed under the state’s Constitution."

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