What is the Montana aid in dying ruling?

Barbara Coombs Lee
Hospice Nursing
On New Year’s Eve 2009, Montana’s Supreme Court handed down the ruling in Baxter v. Montana and authorized the practice of aid in dying for mentally competent, terminally ill adults. The court declared that such a patient may request medication that could be ingested to ensure a peaceful death. It ruled that a physician providing such medication does not violate public policy and is safe from prosecution.

It was a remarkable ruling in many ways. With subsequent legislative events, the court’s findings created a watershed between previous assisted-dying advocacy typified by Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and the new era, in which patient choice becomes integral to the scope of medical practice at the end of life. 

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