Sunday, October 14, 2012

Laws Against Assisted Suicide are Constitutional

Laws prohibiting assisted suicide in Montana are constitutional under both the US Constitution and the Montana State Constitution.  This is true for three reasons. 

1.  The US Supreme Court Upheld Constitutionality

In 1997, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of a statute prohibiting assisted suicide under the United States Constitution.  In Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 705-6, 117 S.Ct. 2258, 2261 (1997), the Supreme Court stated:

"The question presented . . . is whether Washington's prohibition against 'caus[ing]' or 'aid[ing] a suicide offends the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We hold that it does not."

2.  Montana's Constitution Does Not Include a "Right to Die"

Montana's Constitution was adopted in 1972.  Archived documents show that during the Constitutional Convention, a proposed right to die was considered and rejected.[1]  

With this history, there is no right to die in the Montana Constitution.[2] 

3.  The Montana Supreme Court's Constitutional Ruling

In Baxter v. State, 354 Mont. 234, 224 P.3d 1211 (2009), the Supreme Court of Montana vacated a district court decision holding that there is a Constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide under the Montana Constitution.[3] The Supreme Court stated:  "The District Court's ruling on the constitutional issues is vacated . . ."[4]

* * *

[1]  Margaret Dore, "Montana's Constitution does not Include a 'Right to Die,'" October 14, 2012, available at
[2]  Id.
[3]  The District Court's Decision and Order, dated December 5, 2008, page 19, lines 10 to 15, states:  "The Court concludes that a competent terminally ill patient has the constitutional right to die with dignity.  This right . . . necessarily incorporates the assistance of a doctor, as part of a doctor-patient relationship, so that the patient can obtain drugs that he can take to end his own life, if and when he so determines."  (Available  at ).
[4]   Baxter, 354 Mont. at 251,  ¶ 51.