On New Year's Eve, in Baxter v. Montana, the state supreme court surprised everyone by ruling that no law in Montana statutes prohibited physician aid in dying - essentially legalizing the right for terminally ill and mentally competent people to receive physician's assistance to end their own lives. And, according to a recent Missoulian report, at least one terminally ill Montanan "ended his or her life that way..." since the ruling.
It turns out that the right to die is a popular concept in Montana, that a large majority of Montanans support the court's Baxter decision. Compassion and Choices, the advocacy group for the right to die, commissioned two surveys (pdf) from David Binder Research that showed only 25 percent of all voters think the state legislature should "overturn the Supreme Court decision, make doctor-assisted suicide a crime," while a whopping seventy percent feel "the state should allow the Supreme Court decision," either with additional safeguards (31 percent) or to stand as written (39 percent).
Of course, that the right to die is popular with Montanans won't discourage conservative Christians who oppose the policy from fighting it. And, as with the recent Missoula anti-discrimination ordinance, they're not letting the facts discourage them, either.
Check out the comment left on the April 10 Missoulian report, in which "Celebrating the Abundant Life!" compares the court's decision to the "perils of the...doctrine of eugenics and euthanasia that were defeated in World War II...We in Montana will not be coaxed down the old Humanistic path of ethnic cleansing and disposal of the 'unproductive' disabled and elderly all for the supposed good of the 'State'...", completely ignoring that the decision (pdf) explicitly states that it pertains to only those patients given 6 months or less to live, who are ruled mentally competent, and who self-administer the drugs. In no way does this decision - or any policy favored by right-to-die advocates - allow people to be killed against their will, and on the basis of their age, disability, or race.
More insidious, the Montana Family Foundation "issued an analysis" stating the court's decision "didn't legalize the practice," and that any physician who aids, in any way, a terminally ill patient's death "may still be charged for homicides..."
"The purpose of the analysis is to place the decision in perspective, and to dispel much of the misinformation surrounding the issue," said Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation.
"Contrary to recent headlines, the Supreme Court did not legalize physician assisted suicide. Medical personnel and institutions must understand that if they participate in assisted suicide they expose themselves to potential civil and criminal liability, and may even be charged with homicide," the pro-life former state legislator added.
Which, of course, directly contradicts the Montana Supreme Court's decision:
The Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally patient to die with dignity. That is to say, the patient may use the assistance of his physician to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of medication that the patient may take his on his own if and when he decides to terminate his life. The patient's right to die with dignity includes protection of the patient's physician from liability under the state's homicide statutes.
Obviously the Montana Family Foundation is looking to intimidate the state's physicians.
And Montana Republicans have already begun talking about banning physican aid in dying - although, and again, on a completely bogus premise unrelated to the court's decision:
[SD7's Greg] Hinkle explained that physician assisted suicide does not deal with someone who is terminally ill or on a life support system where their family members can decide turn it off. Hinkle used the example of going into diabetic shock, which is under the terminally ill category and something a person can recover from. However, now that this bill has passed, a doctor can say that a person is permanently ill and can decide to kill that person, even if they could have the potential to recover.
Be assured that neither right to die's popularity with Montana voters (see the 2008 legislature's battle over CHIP funding), nor the actual facts of the Supreme Court's decision and policy (see NotMyBathroom) will deter these folks from ramming their particular view of Christianity down our collective throat.