Physician Assisted Suicide in Montana

Montana Supreme Court over a year ago has kept strong with their decision that physician assisted suicide is legal by state law. Montana is the third state to allow this assisted suicide, along with the state of Oregon, and Washington State. The Montana Supreme Court was sharply divided on this law.

They still upheld in a four-three decision that physician assisted suicide was not to be considered illegal practice under the statutes of the state. In the state law, no indication of physician aid in dying is against public policy. The respect for the legislative wishes for the patient facing incurable illness is to be used as defense against making the practice illegal.

The state law in Montana also indicates that legislative regard and protection for doctors who honor their legal obligation to their patients. The state statute immunizes a physician for following their patient’s wishes, even if it is an assisted suicide. This however does not mean that it is against the law for a physician to have to assist the suicide. There is a split with physicians that will honor their patient’s wishes. Then there are physicians in Montana that are still against it.

If a physician follows the wishes of their dying patient and if the assisted suicide requires the physician to unplug the ventilator, withhold medicine or medical treatment that was keeping the patient alive, still protects the physician. In recognition of the terminally ill patient’s right is to make self-determination to be unequivocally met with at the end of their life. Montana State has made the decision to conclude that a physician’s indirect aid in dying is contrary to the public’s beliefs.

An official from the Department of Justice said that this ruling realizes this is an issue that is now resolved in the state legislature. However, the Montana Family Foundation that is an advocacy against the ruling is stating that they will take the issue to the next higher court to fight for the law to make physician assisted suicide illegal.

Montana stands strong with this ruling, adding that terminally ill patients have the right to commit physician-assisted suicide. The first case that brought this to the Supreme Court was Baxter vs. Montana. The case was brought on by a number of terminally ill patients, their doctors, and another advocacy for the physician assisted suicide (unlike the Montana Family Foundation) to have the right to commit physician assisted suicide. The plaintiffs have alleged that terminally ill individuals have the right to die with their decision to do so, with dignity, and not a slow painful death. They also said it offers them the right to seek the safety of having a physician with them in all lawful ways.

Without this case, and the ones to fight for the terminally ill and their physicians, then Montana may have stayed with this being illegal, but due to  brave and very ill people to fight for this right, Montana has made it legal for assisted physician suicide