December 8, 2008
Montana Okays Doctor-Assisted Suicides
A state judge has ruled that doctor-assisted suicides are legal in Montana, the Associated Press reports.
"The patient's right to die with dignity includes protection of the patient's physician from liability under the state's homicide statutes," Judge Dorothy McCarter wrote in the ruling late Friday.
The state attorney general's office had argued that intentionally taking a life was illegal, and that the issue was the responsibility of the state Legislature.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Anders had argued the state has no evaluation process, safeguards or regulations to provide guidance or oversight for doctor-assisted suicide. The state also said it was premature to declare constitutional rights for a competent, terminally ill patient because the terms "competent" or "terminally ill" had yet to be defined.
Amy Beth Hanson writes, "McCarter's ruling makes Montana the third state after Oregon and Washington to allow doctor-assisted suicides. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that terminally ill patients have no constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide but did nothing to prevent states from legalizing the process."