Sunday, August 30, 2009

This Week in Assisted Suicide.

Issues to watch this week:

--On Tuesday, September 2 the Montana Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the December 5 ruling that Montanans have a right to assisted suicide.* The December decision, Baxter v State, made Montana the third state, after Oregon and Washington, to allow assisted suicide. John Baxter, a terminally ill 76 year old Montana resident brought the suit to obtain rights to a lethal prescription of drugs. He won and the state appealed the decision.

One of the interesting aspects of this case is the lack of a conscience clause - allowing medical practitioners to opt-out of prescribing lethal drugs - as are included in Oregon and Washington's Death with Dignity laws, instituted by public vote.

--This week, expect to see more people asking the question that The LA Baptist Examiner has asked: Was Michael Jackson's death homicide or assisted suicide?

The question itself requires some odd definition twisting (see footnote below). Dr. Murray prescribed Propofol and other drugs to Jackson. The coctail caused the entertainer's death. What was Murray's intent? To passify a demanding public figure's request (drug prescription) before he finds another doctor willing to do so? Or kill to his patient?

It will be interesting to see if this case takes the same course as one decided last week regarding a Louisiana man, John Ahlf, who brought his depressed, chronically pained wife 130 pills and alcohol. She took the pills and died; Ahlf was sentenced to 6 months in jail.

*Assisted Suicide is the common name for what advocates call aid in dying or death with dignity (as Oregon and Washington's bills are named). They contend that assisted suicide - meaning death facilitated by another (doctor, relative, etc.) is illegal and that aid in dying or death with dignity allows a terminally ill, mentally sound patient to control the conditions of their own death by administering their own fatal medication.

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