Court Decision Allowing Assisted Suicide in Montana Bashed by Pro-Life Groups

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 8, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Court Decision Allowing Assisted Suicide in Montana Bashed by Pro-Life Groups

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 8
, 2008

Helena, MT ( — Pro-life groups are condemning a Montana state judicial court ruling that says residents have a right to assisted suicide. The groups say they don’t want Montana becoming the third to allow the practice and are urging state officials to appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.

In a ruling issued late Friday, Judge Dorothy McCarter of the First Judicial Court in Helena declared that mentally competent, terminally ill Montana residents can self-administer drugs given to them in prescriptions from willing doctors.

But Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, told that the ruling could go further and promote euthanasia.

"This ruling begins the descent toward euthanasia and even a duty to die in Montana," she said.

"We have already seen cases in Oregon where patients are denied state insurance coverage for life-saving treatments and are told instead the state will pay for their suicides. Assisting someone in committing suicide is never a compassionate choice," Yoest added.

Mailee Smith, a staff attorney with the pro-life group told that the decision "sets the stage for an even more dangerous situation than what exists in other states where physician-assisted suicide is already permitted."

"The plaintiffs in this case argued assisted suicide should be available to a broader group of patients than can even receive lethal drugs in Oregon or Washington. In Montana, assisted suicide will not be limited to patients with terminal illnesses," she said.

Officials with Wisconsin Right to Life were also quick to condemn the Montana decision.

Susan Armacost, legislative director for the group, worried that euthanasia and assisted suicide advocates, stymied in legislatures and unable to get their legislation approved, are increasingly turning to the courts to secure their goals.

"After failing in state legislatures and with the voters in most states, the proponents of legalized physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are increasingly turning to the courts," she said.

"Wisconsin Right to Life decries this onerous decision," Armacost added. "The term ‘death with dignity’ sounds so compassionate but the reality is that the legalization of physician-assisted suicide opens up a literal Pandora’s Box of horrors."

Armacost worries that vulnerable patients may be pushed to ask for an assisted suicide by families, doctors or others who believe their condition is untreatable.

"Wisconsin Right to Life believes society must guard against choices which victimize the vulnerable, ourselves and society as a whole," she told "We must minister compassionately to those who suffer from pain and those who fear death. We must maintain the healing tradition of medicine."

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