Thursday, December 31, 2009

From Compassion & Choices on Montana's Legalization of Aid in Dying.

via email. Their website is

Thrilling news from Montana Supreme Court today - I wanted you to be among the first to know. Dying patients in Montana now have the right to ask their doctors to provide aid in dying!
The Montana Supreme Court just issued a decision that public policy of Montana does not criminalize, and much in current public policy affirmatively supports, aid in dying. The court did not reach the question of whether the Montana constitution specifically protects aid in dying.
In a detailed review of Montana law on the "Rights of the Terminally Ill," the Court concluded that the legislature specifically defers to a patient's own decisions and affords patients the right to control their own bodies at the end of life. The decision to self-administer life-ending medication receives the same treatment as a decision to discontinue life sustaining therapies such as mechanical ventilation. This is a landmark victory!
This makes Montana the first state where a court has determined that patients may request, and physicians may legally provide, aid in dying. This is a historic ruling, which will change the landscape of end-of-life choice in Montana; in addition this decision will have persuasive influence in other states across the nation.
The decision applies to terminally ill, mentally competent Montanans, and its ripple effect will be felt in states across the nation.Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker represented the patients and physicians in the lawsuit that produced the ruling, and I am extremely proud of the work of Kathryn and her colleagues, including her co-counsel, Missoula litigator Mark Connell, have done on this case.
I am also proud of you, because it is your enduring support for Compassion & Choices that gave us the financial strength and moral authority to wage this important legal battle.
What does this mean for Montanans? It means that patients like Steve Johnson of Helena, who is terminally ill with brain cancer, can request a prescription from his doctor for medication that he could consume to bring about a peaceful death without him or his doctor risking criminal prosecution. Steve said, "It's only compassionate to allow me to choose to minimize unnecessary suffering at the end of my life, to let me make the choice about how much suffering to endure, based on my own values and beliefs."

With today's ruling, Montanans like Steve now have a choice.

Your support for Compassion & Choices helped win this landmark case. It paves the way to similar rulings to expand patients' rights in more states, and at the federal level, in years to come.

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