Montana judge sticks her neck out for terminally ill patients

December 7, 2008 | By | 7 Replies More

Let’s see . . . who should have the final say over whether a terminally ill person has suffered enough and should be allowed to check out of life Earth.  Based on the debacle involving Terry Schiavo I’m betting that the country will be split down the middle in this emerging battle in the culture wars, and that tens of millions of fundamentalists will argue that it’s the “humane” to force a terminally ill cancer patient to stay alive against his/her wishes.  Many of these people have no problem putting a pet “to sleep” to make sure it doesn’t suffer.  But, damn, this is a human being!  Ergo, it’s “humane” to make a human experience extended horrific pain. Admittedly, not all terminally ill patients experience crushing pain, but many do.  How can it be humane to euthanize a suffering animal but not humane to offer euthanasia to suffering human animal who is soberly asking for death?

Yesterday, a Montana judge has ruled that doctor-assisted suicides are legal:

Judge Dorothy McCarter issued the ruling late Friday in the case of a Billings man with terminal cancer, who had sued the state with four physicians that treat terminally ill patients and a nonprofit patients’ rights group. “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.

[McCarter’s Court Order] also said that those patients had the right to obtain self-administered medications to hasten death if they find their suffering to be unbearable, and that physicians can prescribe such medication without fear of prosecution.

Let the circus begin!  Instead of letting this terminally ill patient go in peace, we’re about to see the fundies patting themselves on the back for intentionally inflicting grievous pain.  If makes you suspect that they don’t actually believe in a just God who would show some flexibility to people suffering wrenching and intractable pain.   We’re all going to be dead soon enough, right?  What’s the big deal that a terminally ill patient voluntarily ends his life a few years (or months) sooner?  It also makes me think that some of these fundies should spend less time hearing about hell in church and more time volunteering in hospices.

I know that this rant is technically a bit premature, but just you wait . . .


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Category: Good and Evil, Meaning of Life, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Why is death a surprise? | Dangerous Intersection | December 14, 2008
  1. > What’s the big deal that a terminally ill patient voluntarily ends his life a few years (or months) sooner?

    Simple: it's about power and control. People who choose to go their own way are evading that control the fundies so crave. It is of course OK to die if you've been told to do so by the fundie leadership, but not of your own choice.

  2. Vicki Baker says:


    I'm sympathetic to a lot of the concerns of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

    If assisted suicide becomes the only humane option because quality palliative care is not affordable, how ethical is that? I know it's largely a slippery slope argument, but not that far-fetched in my opinion.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Vicki: There's a right way and a wrong way to implement euthanasia.

    I inserted the "Not Dead Yet" link on your comment and visited the site. I agree that disabled people should not be pushed out the door. On the other hand, I think it is terrible to vilify terminally ill people who, after carefully considering the issue, no long want to live. I don't think that all euthanasia measures "resemble pre-war German policies when disabled people were the first to be seen as expendable 'for the greater good.'"

    I know you merely said that you are "sympathetic," to NDY's agenda. But please clarify: Would you oppose ANY euthanasia proposal?

  4. Vicki Baker says:

    I'm mostly sympathetic to Not Dead Yet's demand that their voice be heard and that the disabled should not be used as a political football in the culture wars. See this article:

    If the legality of assisted suicide depend on the health status of the person being assisted, that opens the door for the state to decide who deserves to live.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    These shocking photographs show the moment tragic Craig Ewert draws his last breath after he opted for assisted suicide rather than spend the rest of his 'short' life locked in a 'living tomb.'

    Retired university professor Craig, 59, who suffered from motor neurone disease (MND), was filmed as he passed away comforted by his wife at a controversial Swiss euthanasia clinic.

    Father-of-two Craig took the decision to end his life after motor neurone disease began to paralyse his ailing body and he was faced a drawn-out, agonising death.

    Craig describes his body as a 'living tomb' and said he welcomes euthanasia as an alternative to 'utter hell.'

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    And here's another recent incident, from the U.K. Telegraph:

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