Leading Bioethicist Upset Montana Medical Association Punts on Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 30, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Leading Bioethicist Upset Montana Medical Association Punts on Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
December 30
, 2008

Helena, MT (LifeNews.com) — A leading attorney and author who is one of the top bioethicists in the U.S. says he’s very disappointed that the Montana Medical Association has said it will take no position on assisted suicide. The MMA is refusing to support the state’s efforts to stop the courts from making it the third to legalize the practice.

As LifeNews.com reported Monday, the state doctors group will not file legal papers to support overturning a decision where a state judge misused the privacy section of the state constitution to allow doctors to help kill their patients.

MMA President Kirk Stoner said the group has no position on assisted suicide.

"We don’t have a real reason to get involved right now. There are bigger fish to fry," he claimed.

Wesley J. Smith has issued a scathing editorial taking Stoner to task.

"What bigger fish could there possibly be to ‘fry’ than whether doctors should be relieved from homicide laws in order to help kill their patients?" he writes. "Unless, I guess, one believes that venerable medical ethics don’t matter all that much."

Smith says the MMA’s decision not to get involved in the legal battle over assisted suicide hurts the coalition of pro-life, religious, medical and disability rights groups that have stopped the practice in other states.

"But I have been worrying in recent years that some physicians groups and doctors don’t take this issue with sufficient seriousness," Smith explains. "And, indeed, as I have noted, one of the tactics of the pro assisted suicide forces is to get medical leaders to assume an attitude of ‘studied neutrality’ to legalization."

Smith says his concerned is "heightened" by the MMA’s refusal to stand up to a Montana judge "imposing a constitutional right to assisted suicide."

Stoner said the MMA hasn’t discussed the issue of assisted suicide lately — something Smith says the group should do immediately.

"If the MMA hasn’t discussed the issue lately, it sure should now," he said. "With a signature of one judge’s pen, it is literally off of the doorstep and in the parlor. What could be more important for the MMA to discuss?"

"Such terminal nonjudgmentalism is an abdication of professional responsibility. Disgraceful," Smith concludes.

Judge Dorothy McCarter issued a ruling earlier this month declaring that a patient in the lawsuit and mentally competent, terminally ill Montana residents like him can self-administer drugs given to them in prescriptions from willing doctors.

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath is filing an appeal to overturn the decision. Stoner said the Montana Medical Association would not get involved in the case unless its members asked it to weigh in on the case.

The MMA position puts it at odds with its parent organization, which has a policy opposing assisted suicide as "fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer."

ACTION: Contact the Montana Medical Association and urge it to support McGrath’s efforts to overturn Judge McCarter’s decision allowing assisted suicide. Contact the MMA at 2021 Eleventh Avenue, Suite 1, Helena, Montana 59601, (406) 443-4000, fax (406) 443-4042. You can also contact MMA officers by going to https://www.mmaoffice.org/about_mission.htm.

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