.- The Montana Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn a state judge’s ruling that Montana residents have a legal right to assisted suicide.
On Thursday attorneys for the Chicago-based law firm Americans United for Life (AUL) filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a bipartisan group of 28 Montana senators and representatives. The brief argued that there is no right to assisted suicide under the state’s constitution.
“If this ruling is allowed to stand, Montana would have the most liberal allowance of assisted suicide in the nation,” said Mailee Smith, staff counsel for the AUL.
In December Helena district Judge Dorothy McCarter ruled that a Billings, Montana man with terminal cancer had the right to commit suicide and the right to assistance in committing suicide. The judge cited the state constitution’s explicit right to privacy and right to dignity.
"The Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally (ill) patient to die with dignity," McCarter held.
The Montana attorney general’s office is formally appealing the decision.
Smith warned Judge McCaerter's decision had opened the door to active euthanasia.
“There are no safeguards – no restrictions – in place under the judge’s order,” Smith told CNSNews.com. “The judge stated that under the state’s constitution, a person would be denied his or her constitutional right to dignity if they do 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 said.
Unlike Oregon, she explained, there is no requirement that a request for assisted suicide be in writing or a requirement for witnesses to the request. There is also no requirement that the patient see another physician to establish competency to request assisted suicide.
This lack of regulation is “another terrifying aspect,” Smith said, reporting that in the Netherlands physicians are administering euthanasia without the consent of their patients.
“There are no safeguards in place to prevent that from happening in Montana,” she said.
The Colorado-based pro-assisted suicide group Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, helped argue the Montana case.
Compassion & Choices legal director Kathryn Tucker in a press release argued the right to “privacy, personal autonomy and dignity” are “deeply rooted in the political and cultural heritage of Montana.”
The Alliance Defense Fund has also filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Catholic Medical Association, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Family Research Council and Montana physicians.