Montana Supreme Court Approves Doctor-Patient Suicide (Sort Of)

MSNBC is reporting on a significant new court expanding the rights of patients to make end of life decisions.  The Montana Supreme Court ruled today that nothing in state law prevents patients from seeking physician-assisted suicide.  This decision paves the way for patients to begin undergoing procedures to end their lives.

However, the state’s highest court didn’t give Montanans the constitutional right to death with dignity.  Instead, the court merely stated that no law presently exists in Montana or in judicial precedent preventing doctor-patient suicide.  It is unclear whether conservative political factions in Montana will seek to enact legislation preventing doctor-assisted procedures.  You can click to another article discussing the case here.

A year ago, a state District Court judge ruled that the state’s constitutional rights to privacy and dignity protect the right of terminally ill Montanans to get the drugs needed to die peacefully.

In recent years, so-called “right to die” cases have received significant coverage in the media with focus on Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the Teri Schiavo case.  In 1990, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cruzan v. Missouri Dept. of Health Services that states could enact stringent laws preventing doctor-patient suicide and rejected right to privacy challenges. A PDF of the Cruzan case is in the Box for you to download.