The debate concerning assisted suicide in the United States has been effected by a false reading of the Baxter decision in Montana. The assisted suicide lobby insists that assisted suicide is legal in Montana, but a closer reading of the Baxter decision recognizes that the court decision did not overturn the law but created a defense for a physician who is prosecuted. Prosecutions for assisted suicide remain possible in Montana and conviction remains possible in Montana.
Recently during the debate in Massachusetts it was stated over and over again that only two states have legalized assisted suicide and in Massachusetts the voters recently rejected (ballot Question 2) assisted suicide.
The following letter was written byDavid W Hafer, DDS, MS and published Ravalli Republic newspaper under the title: Assisted suicide in Montana.
Assisted suicide in Montana
A recent AP article which appeared last Friday in most major newspapers in our state incorrectly stated that Montana is the third state to allow assisted suicide, along with Washington and Oregon.
Attorneys Greg Jackson and Matt Bowman did an extensive analysis of the case and concluded it “did not legalize assisted suicide and it continues to carry both criminal and civil liability for any doctor, institution, or lay person involved.” The Montana Lawyer, the official publication of the Montana State Bar concluded the issue is open to argument, confirming that the legislature needs to clarify the issue this coming session.
As a retired doctor and Montana State Representative for CMDA I your readership needs to know that there are problems inherent in passing a law that would allow a physician to kill their patient. People need to understand that we are talking about a physician writing a prescription for the express purpose of one taking their own life. The very oath that physicians take in stepping into this profession states that they “shall do no harm.” Their purpose is to cure, to heal, to provide comfort and care at the end of life, but not to aid in facilitating the end of that life through active means. Physicians are fallible human beings and often are wrong in their prognosis concerning how long a patient will survive their illness. Often, it is depression that prompts one to think that life if not worth living or perhaps the feeling that because of their illness they are a burden to their family. The whole matter is a recipe for elder abuse.
This is a topic that requires much more discussion and education concerning what it really entails and what is at stake. The Montana Medical Association has drafted its position statement, stating that Boards (i.e. Montana Medical Examiners Board) should not be making position statements without clear statutory authority.
I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight and hope that you continue to report on this vital topic.