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.
With this history, there is no right to die in the Montana Constitution.
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. The Supreme Court stated: "The District Court's ruling on the constitutional issues is vacated . . ."
Sunday, October 14, 2012
By Margaret Dore
In 1972, Montana held its Constitutional Convention. The Bill of Rights Committee was charged with drafting a declaration of rights to be included in the constitution. On February 2, 1972, the Committee received "Delegate Proposal 103," which proposed a right to die.
On February 3, 1972, the Committee held a hearing on the "right to die." Therein, "Mrs. Joyce Franks presented the theory to the Committee that all persons should be able to choose his own death with dignity." She also submitted a seven page document titled "Bill of Rights Speech." In this document, she proposed wording for a constitutional right to die and also discussed her father and the right to die in terms of physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.
Other persons also submitted testimony.
On February 9, 1972, the Bill of Rights Committee rejected Proposal #103, the "Right to Die."
On February 12, 1972, Joe Roberts appeared before the Committee in support of the right to die. His written remarks noted the reason for the Committee's rejection of the right to die, as follows:
"[T]he consensus of the delegates I have talked to indicated that while they were sympathetic to Mrs. Frank's personal tragedy, they were afraid of the implications of stating broadly a Right to Die in the Montana Constitution.
On March 18, 1972, the Committee's "Declaration of Rights" was adopted by the full convention without the right to die.
Today, the Committee's Declaration of Rights is Article II of the Montana Constitution.
With this history, there is no right to die in the Montana Constitution: it was proposed; advocated by Mrs. Franks and other persons; and rejected.