Montana Supreme Court Gets Pro-Life Legal Brief Opposing Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 28, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Montana Supreme Court Gets Pro-Life Legal Brief Opposing Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 28
, 2009

Helena, MT ( — A pro-life legal group has submitted a brief to the Montana Supreme Court asking it to overturn a local judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban on assisted suicide. If the state’s high court affirms the lower court’s ruling, Montana will officially become the third state to allow the practice.

Oregon became the first state allowing assisted suicide following two statewide votes and legal battles. Washington voters made the Pacific coast state the second last November after approving I-1000.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the Montana Supreme Court. The brief asks the judges to not determine that the Montana Constitution allows a "right" to assisted suicide.

This case is the second time the high court will have dealt with a provision in the state constitution that calls for a right to privacy.

Although drafters did not have abortion or assisted suicide in mind — they were targeting governmental snooping and intrusion — the Montana Supreme Court in 1999 claimed the constitution allowed an unlimited right to an abortion.

“Legalizing assisted suicide diminishes compassionate treatment of pain because…assisted suicide encourages the elimination of patients themselves rather than of their suffering,” the brief states. “The dignity and privacy rights of vulnerable patients require that they not be propelled into a society where they can be successfully pressured to die. Their lives are valuable and protectable by law.”

In October 2007, two men, along with some doctors and the euthanasia advocacy organization Compassionate Choices, filed suit in state court.

Last December, Judge Dorothy McCarter handed down her decision and the state attorney general appealed the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.

“Doctors are licensed to heal, not to kill. It should seem obvious, but the law should never allow private individuals to poison one another," ADF senior legal counsel Steven H. Aden told

ADF filed its brief on behalf of the Family Research Council, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Catholic Medical Association, and numerous Montana physicians.

“A right to assisted suicide is inconsistent with our legal system, built upon the bedrock principle of equality of each human being,” said Bill Saunders, human rights counsel and senior fellow and director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the Family Research Council.

“As experience in the Netherlands shows, legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide leads to doctors deciding which lives are worth living, fundamentally corrupting the doctor-patient relationship," he added.

Related web sites:
ADF brief –
Alliance Defense Fund –

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