By Alex Schadenberg
(Executive director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition)
January 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Dec. 31, the Supreme Court of Montana issued a split decision in which it denied victory to Compassion & Choices on its quest for a right to "aid in dying" based on the Montana State Constitution. "Aid in dying" is more commonly known as physician-assisted suicide.
The Supreme Court instead focused on issues of statutory construction to determine that Montana state law has no public policy against "aid in dying" because the final death causing act lies in the patient's hands.
This holding ignores the practical realities of ensuring patient safety from over-eager heirs, new "best friends" and others who might benefit from the patient's death. For example, physicians who malpractice and who wants to hide their mistakes can now say: "It was what the patient wanted." The evidence against the physician dies with the patient. If the patient has no family or other advocate, who will know?
A bright spot in the decision is that it does not give physicians the "right" to prescribe a lethal dose, but only suggests that circumstances may exist to give them a defense to prosecution for homicide.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is hopeful that Montana's legislature will now take the lead to protect its citizens in the next legislative session.