In a surprising opinion out of Helena, Montana, Judge Dorothy McCarter has handed down a powerful decision in favor of the constitutional rights of patients and doctors in physician-assisted suicides.
Judge McCarter ruled that a Billings man with terminal cancer has a right to such assistance as a matter of state constitutional law: “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.” Bravo.
The state argued that this was not a matter for the courts and should be left to the legislature. They are considering an appeal.
In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of such laws in Gonzales v. Oregon. The ruling reinforced the right of the states to make this determination — a win for true federalism over the assertion of federal jurisdiction by Ashcroft and Gonzales (who claimed to support state’s right but moved to bar state laws that they disagreed with).