Montana Supreme Court Gets More Pro-Life Briefs Against OKing Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Montana Supreme Court Gets More Pro-Life Briefs Against OKing Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 1
, 2009

Helena, MT ( — The Montana Supreme Court has received more legal briefs from pro-life groups asking it not to affirm a lower court decision making the state the third to allow assisted suicides. The Christian Legal Society and Christian Medical Association, along with Americans United for Life, weighed in this week.

AUL filed a brief on of a bipartisan group of 28 Montana state senators and representatives arguing there is no right to assisted suicide under the state’s constitution.

Mailee Smith, staff counsel with the group, told that the "district court held that a person’s constitutional rights are ‘defeated’ if she does not receive assistance in dying. This means that anyone—even a patient who cannot administer lethal drugs herself—is entitled to have a physician kill them."

Smith says the Montana ruling would allow the state to go beyond assisted suicide and allow euthanasia.

“What’s even worse is that there is no requirement that another person witness the suicide request or that there be written documentation of the request and the basis for it," she explains. "Physicians can unilaterally decide that their patients want to die, with no paper trail to hold them accountable. That is not assisted suicide—that is euthanasia.”

The CLS and CMA asked the Montana Supreme Court yesterday to protect the conscience rights of healthcare professionals who object to assisting in suicides.

In a friend of the court brief filed in Baxter v. Montana, the organizations, together comprising over 18,000 Christian medical and legal professionals, urged the state high court to reverse a decision finding a state constitutional right to assisted suicide.

The brief urges the Montana Supreme Court to reverse the district court’s decision finding a state constitutional right, permitting the legislative process to work.

The legal papers also asked the court to declare a state right not to participate in an assisted suicide.

Casey Mattox, litigation counsel with the Christian Legal Society, talked with about the amicus brief.

“The trial court’s decision to create a constitutional right to ‘obtain assistance from a medical care provider in the form of obtaining a prescription for lethal drugs’ threatens the rights of healthcare professionals and institutions that hold sincere ethical, moral, and religious objections to participating in the intentional killing of their patients,” he explained.

“Medical professionals should not be coerced to violate the Hippocratic Oath in order to practice in Montana," he said.

The CLS brief notes that, when Oregon and Washington created laws legalizing assisted suicide, they explicitly protected the rights of objecting medical professionals not to participate.

Related web sites:
Americans United for Life –
Christian Legal Society –

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