08 December 2008

Montana Becomes 3rd State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Very bad news out of Montana this weekend- courtesy of an activist judge, Montana became the 3rd state and the 6th jurisdiction to legalize assisted suicide. Unlike Washington and Oregon however, Montana's legalization was done, not by the elected legislature (or the American equivalent) but by a judge deciding to reinterpret the law.

While my understanding of the American jurisprudential chain is limited at best, it is certain that this case will be appealed. Already there are groups preparing amicus briefs to start the appeal. I have been unable to find a copy of the decision to read for myself, but the decision was made by District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter. (As far as I understand the American legal system, the District Court is similar to our Federal Court Trial Division; they answer questions based on federal statutes.)

The action was brought on behalf of Richard Baxter, a terminally ill 75- year old man, 4 physicians and Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock society). The ruling held that any mentally competent terminally ill residents of Montana have a right to "die with dignity." This includes the right to "obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of medication that the patient may take on his own if and when he decides to terminate his life."

Baxter actually compared himself to pets. "I've just watched people suffer so badly when they died, and it goes on every day. You can just see it in their eyes: 'Why am I having to go through this terrible part of my life, when we do it for animals? We put them out of their misery. I just feel if we can do it for animals, we can do it for human beings."

Obviously this man is suffering, but helping him to kill himself is not the answer. He says he is unbearable pain, but that is no reason to kill him. Instead of killing someone, let's try helping them; giving them good palliative care. Why are there 4 doctors fighting to help him kill himself instead of trying to treat him?

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Lets ask Mary to intercede for this world, because the news every week seems to be bleaker and bleaker.

UPDATE: (Tues 1:20pm) Richard Baxter died of leukemia before learning that the court had found in his favour See story here

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