Montana Assisted Suicide Decision Reads Very Much Like Right to Death on Demand

I will admit I didn’t get much sleep last night because of the Montana case imposing a constitutional right to assisted suicide there. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the decision yet, but from the few quotes I have seen it appears a radically broad and hubristic ruling, that if followed, logically couldn’t be limited to physician assisted suicide or the terminally ill. These two quotes stand out, as cited in the Hemlock Society, er Compassion and Choices Web page crowing about the ruling:

“The Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally (ill) patient to die with dignity,” McCarter said in the ruling. “The patient’s right to die with dignity includes protection of the patient’s physician from liability under the state’s homicide statutes,” the judge wrote.


“We have chosen not to ‘march lock-step’ with the United States Supreme Court…we have held that Montana’s unique constitutional language affords citizens (of Montana) a greater right to privacy.” District Court Judge Jeffrey M. Sherlock wrote [in another case], “Montanans generally mind their own business and do not wish to restrict other people in their freedoms unless the exercise of those freedoms interferes with other members of society.”

This is the old, “I can do anything I want until the point that my fist hits your nose,” concept. Leaving aside for the moment that assisted suicide hits everyone in the nose and harms society, think about the logical implications of the judge’s ruling:

First, why limit the right to people diagnosed with a terminal illness? If I want to die because John McCain lost the election and I can’t stand the idea of an Obama Presidency, that’s my business and nobody has a right to interfere.

Second, the judge went further than somebody’s right to commit suicide, which is an individual action. She declared that the person who wants to die has the right to help. The example here is of a physician writing a prescription. But her ruling went even farther than that–it shielded assisting doctors from homicide laws. It seems to me that language has to open the door to active euthanasia.

Third, why limit the assister to a physician? If privacy (“choice”) and the right to dignity–which has to be what each individual decides it is since the state cannot logically determine what is dignity from what I have seen, why can’t I have anyone I want kill me? Recall that in Switzerland, assisted suicides are done by lay groups, not physicians–which is logical since killing is not a medical act.

Fourth: If dignity (as I see it) and privacy are so absolute, why limit the license to assisted suicide? Why not amputate the limb on request of a person suffering from BIID, whose idea of dignity is to have one leg instead of two? That was certainly the implication of the original Montana Supreme Court ruling that unleashed this.

I plan to write more about this when I have read the whole ruling. It will be appealed, no doubt. But I have one more thought to add, which I will do in the next post.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular


The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More