By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
As a result of a judge’s ruling, Montana has become the third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide by allowing physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients without threat of criminal prosecution. The man who brought the case died naturally on the same day the decision was handed down.
According to a report appearing on Spero News, Judge Dorothy McCarter issued a ruling on Dec. 5 declaring that mentally “competent, terminally ill patients” may self-administer life ending medication and the prescribing physicians will not be prosecuted. She wrote that “the Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity” afford such patients the right to “die with dignity.”
The decision will likely be appealed by the state in order to allow the Montana state legislature to decide whether or not terminally ill patients can take their own life.
The ruling is the result of a case brought in 2007 by Robert Baxter, a 75 year-old retired truck driver suffering from lymphocytic leukemia. Four physicians signed onto the suit as well as the pro-euthanasia group Compassion and Choices (formerly known as the Hemlock Society). Only hours before the ruling was handed down, Baxter died in his home in Billings.
His family told the Associated Press that they hope others might benefit from the ruling, even though their loved one was unable to do so.
In a prior interview with World Net Daily, Baxter said: “I’ve just watched people suffer so badly when they died, and it goes on every day. You can just see it in their eyes: Why am I having to go through this terrible part of my life, when we do it for animals? We put them out of their misery. I just feel if we can do it for animals, we can do it for human beings.”
The state does not agree and sees a big difference between euthanazing animals and human beings. The attorney general’s office contends that intentionally taking a life is illegal and that any decisions regarding the issues are the responsibility of the state Legislature.
An attorney who specializes in bioethics issues, Wesley J. Smith, told Life News that the decision was a broad ruling that “logically couldn’t be limited to physician assisted suicide or the terminally ill.”
Smith claimed that the judge “went further than somebody’s right to commit suicide, which is an individual action. She declared that the person who wants to die has the right to help.”
“The example here is of a physician writing a prescription. But her ruling went even farther than that–it shielded assisting doctors from homicide laws. It seems to me that language has to open the door to active euthanasia.”
In other words, this decision could pave the way for non-doctors assisting in suicides similar to the way the state allows nurses to perform abortions.
Until the case is settled, Montana will join Oregon and Washington as the only three states to allow physician-assisted suicides.
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