Human Exceptionalism

Oral Arguments to be Heard in Montana Assisted Suicide Supreme Court Appeal

The Montana Supreme Court  will hear oral arguments Wednesday in the appeal of a trial judge ruling creating  a state constitutional right to assisted suicide.  Assisted suicide is often depicted by advocates here as applying only to the terminally ill.  This is a political tactic to get people used to the idea.  Indeed, the arguments being made by the pro assisted suicide advocates in Montana, if accepted, would make the expansion to other suffering categories of people all but inevitable. From the story:

Lawyers in favor of physician-assisted suicide argue that Montana’s Constitution guarantees all citizens the right of dignity and privacy. There is nothing more private, they argue in documents filed before the court, than the decision to end one’s life. Every Montana citizen has the right to dignity, they argue. If a terminal illness – or the medical efforts to relieve pain in the final stages of a terminal illness – rob a citizen of that dignity, the individual has the constitutional right to prescription medicines to end their lives, prescriptions only doctors can give.

If that is so, why should such a” fundamental right” be restricted to a relatively small subset of citizens at any given time? A lot of things can be deemed by a suicidal person to rob him or her of dignity; severe disability, dementia, chronic pain, severe mental anguish that has one, for example, cutting oneself to relieve the pain. And privacy covers all kinds of destructive behavior. Indeed, the mentally ill have been granted the constitutional right in Switzerland to assisted suicide, so too in the Netherlands, and it has been advocated in no less an august journal here than the Hastings Center Report. Moreover, we construe constitutional rights broadly, not narrowly.  Kathryn Tucker also came out against creating Oregon-style “protective guidelines,” giving us a clear glimpse of the long term game that is afoot.

Assisted suicide isn’t just about a person who wants to die. It is about creating a license to allow others to help, that is, to conspire in the private killing of a human being.  That is a very big deal and it should not be imposed by court fiat.

The arguments begin at 9:30 Mountain Time and can be viewed or listened to through the Montana State Judiciary Web site at www.montanacourts.org.

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