Friday, August 21, 2009

Montana Supreme Court to hear argument in aid-in-dying case

Compassion & Choices and four Montana doctors filed their brief with the Montana Supreme Court August 14 in the case of Baxter et al v. Montana. Plaintiff Robert Baxter was suffering from lymphocytic leukemia when the case was filed and died late last year.

The appellees urge the State’s highest court to affirm the lower court’s decision, which found that aid in dying was a fundamental right under the Montana Constitution’s guarantees of privacy and dignity. Compassion & Choices’ Legal Director Kathryn Tucker and well-known Missoula litigator Mark Connell represent the plaintiffs/appellees.

Here are excerpts from the brief:

“Patients will inevitably confront the question of whether to choose aid in dying in different ways. This is as it should be. Because individual lives, deaths and consciences are at stake, each individual bears the consequences of his/her decision. The question before this Court is whether individuals who want aid in dying will be allowed to choose it, or whether the government will be permitted to make the choice for them and flatly ban the option. “

“Deciding how much suffering to endure in the final ravages of terminal illness is without doubt among the most private, personal, and important decisions of a lifetime. The right to choose aid in dying warrants constitutional protection and should not be usurped by the State.”

The Montana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday, September 2nd, in Helena. If the Court affirms, it will be the first high court in the nation to find constitutional protection for aid in dying.

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