Posted: Dec 11, 2013 4:38 PM by Sanjay Talwani - MTN News
HELENA - The issue of physician assisted suicide was in court Tuesday [December 10, 2013]
|Judge Michael Menehan|
Montanans Against Assisted Suicide is arguing that a policy position by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners implies that physician assisted suicide may be legal.
A lawyer for the Board says that the position - since rescinded, says no such thing. Michael Fanning says the group bringing the lawsuit has no real case is trying to force the issue to the Montana Supreme Court.
The position paper, written in response to doctor inquiries, said that the board would handle complaints related to assisted suicide on a case-by-case basis as it would other cases.
Attorney for Montanans
Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS)
Margaret Dore, an attorney for MAAS, said the paper overstepped the Board's authority and implied to many that assisted suicide was legal in Montana.
"They are a board that is comprised of 11 doctors and two members of the public," she said. "It has no expertise to be making a pronouncement, that aid in dying is legal in Montana. That's the role of the legislature or a court and they are neither."
She said that such an understanding had huge implications in devaluing the lives of the sick and elderly.
That position paper - in response to the lawsuit - has since been rescinded by the Board and scrubbed from its website. But Dore said court action was still needed to prevent the Board from reinstating such a position.
She repeatedly asked District Judge Mike Menahan to weigh in on a Montana Supreme Court ruling known as Baxter, that envisions potential defenses to doctors charged with homicide for assisting with suicide.
But Menehan said it wasn't the role of a district judge to rule on a Montana Supreme Court order.
Michael Fanning, an attorney for the Board, said MAAS had no standing to bring the lawsuit, has suffered no damages from the Board's rescinded position and was simply jockeying to get the case before the Montana Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the Baxter ruling.
"This most certainly is a political question, a philosophical question or an academic debate, but it is not a lawsuit," he said. "In fact, this is a feigned case. It was contrived simply to bring this matter before you."
Menahan did not immediately rule on the case.
[Montanans Against Assisted Suicide (MAAS) is also represented by attorney Craig Charlton].