Baxter v. Montana

Baxter, et al., v. Montana, et al.
[[File:Seal of the United States Supreme Court.png|100px]]
Montana Supreme Court
Argued September 2, 2009
Decided December 31, 2009
Full case name: Robert Baxter, Stephen Speckart, M.D., C. Paul Loehnen, M.D., Lar Autio, M.D., George Risi Jr., M.D., and Compassion & Choices, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. State of Montana and Steve Bullock, Defendants and Appellants
Citations: MT DA 09-0051, 2009 MT 449
Holding
While the State Constitution did not guarantee a right to physician-assisted suicide, there was "nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy."
Court membership
Chief Justice
Mike McGrath (recused)
Associate Justices
James C. Nelson, W. William Leaphart, Patricia O. Cotter, James A. Rice, John Warner, Brian Morris
Justice Pro Tem
District Judge Joe L. Hegel (sitting in place of McGrath)
Case opinions
Majority by: Leaphart
Joined by: Cotter, Warner, Morris
Concurrence by: Nelson
Dissent by: Rice
Joined by: Hegel

Baxter v. Montana, was a Montana Supreme Court case, argued on September 2, 2009, and decided on December 31, 2009, that addressed the question of whether the state's constitution guaranteed terminally ill patients a right to lethal prescription medication from their physicians.[1]

Contents

Background of the case

The original lawsuit was brought by 4 Montana physicians (Stephen Speckart, C. Paul Loehnen, Lar Autio, and George Risi, Jr., M.D.s), Compassion & Choices and Robert Baxter, a 76 year old truck driver from Billings, Montana, who was dying of lymphocytic leukemia. The plaintiffs asked the court to establish a constitutional right "to receive and provide aid in dying".[2] The state argued that "the Constitution confers no right to aid in ending one’s life." [3] Judge Dorothy McCarter, of Montana's First Judicial District Court, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on December 5, 2008, stating that the "constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally-ill patient to die with dignity."[4] Baxter died that same day.[5]

The Montana Attorney General appealed the case to the state supreme court. Oral arguments were heard on September 2, 2009.[5]

Amicus briefs filed on behalf of those asking the court to grant the constitutional right to receive/provide aid in dying include human rights groups [6], women's right groups [7], The American Medical Women's Association/American Medical Students Association [8], clergy [9], legal scholars [10], 31 Montana state legislators [11] and bioethicists [12], among others.

Among the groups filing amicus briefs on behalf of the state are the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of the Family Research Council, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Catholic Medical Association.

The Montana Medical Association issued a statement opposing physician-assisted suicide, but has refused to file an amicus brief in the appeal.

Controversy

Conservative lawyer Wesley J. Smith condemned the lower court ruling, stating,

Judges are becoming too arrogant for our good as a nation....Culture-rending changes in law and morality should not be decided undemocratically by promoting a judge's own ideology through wrenching and twisting constitutional terms to mean things that were not intended when they were enacted. www.lifenews.com/2009/01/09/bio-2692/ (accessed 2010-12-31).

Verdict

On Dec. 31, 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in favor of Baxter. It stated that, while the state's Constitution did not guarantee a right to physician-assisted suicide, there was "nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy."[13]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Johnson, Kirk. Montana Court to Rule on Assisted Suicide Case, The New York Times, August 31, 2009
  2. ^ Original plaintiff's filing Baxter v Montana
  3. ^ Johnson, Kirk. Montana Court to Rule on Assisted Suicide Case, The New York Times, August 31, 2009
  4. ^ Montana District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter, decision to grant motion for summary judgment [1]
  5. ^ a b Billings Gazette: Personal choice vs. public interest: ‘Right to die’ argued, September 2, 2009
  6. ^ Human Rights Groups Amicus for plaintiffs/appellees
  7. ^ Women's Rights Groups Amicus for plaintiffs/appellees
  8. ^ American Medical Women's Association/American Medical Students Association Amicus Brief for plaintiffs/appellees
  9. ^ Clergy Amicus Brief for plaintiffs/appellees
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ Montana Legislators Amicus Brief for plaintiffs/appellees
  12. ^ Bioethicists Amicus Brief for plaintiffs/appellees
  13. ^ Montana Ruling Bolsters Doctor-Assisted Suicide

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