Montana Supreme Court to Hear Assisted Suicide Case

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday morning in the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling that Montanans have a constitutionally protected right to physician-assisted suicide.

District Judge Dorothy McCarter ruled in December that the state’s constitutional rights to privacy and dignity protect the right of a mentally competent, terminally ill Montanan to obtain medications they can ingest to bring about a peaceful death if they find their suffering unbearable.

The ruling came in a case filed by Compassion & Choices on behalf of a terminally ill patient, Robert Baxter of Billings, and four physicians. Baxter died on the day McCarter issued her ruling.

The arguments fall on either side of a line between allowing terminally ill patients to die, in some cases because of the amount of medication needed to alleviate pain, and prescribing medication with the intent of ending their lives.

The state argues that physician-assisted suicide breaks state homicide laws and violates medical ethics.

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