By Joel Rosenblatt
Jan. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Physician-assisted suicide is legal in Montana, and doctors who help terminally ill patients die are shielded from prosecution, the state Supreme Court ruled.
Montana is the third state, after Oregon and Washington, to allow physicians to help such patients end their lives, and yesterday’s decision is the first from a U.S. state high court to protect the choice, said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for Compassion and Choices, a group that advocates the practice.
A lower court in Montana ruled in 2008 that the state’s constitutional privacy and human dignity rights allow a terminally ill patient to “die with dignity.” The court ruled patients may use a doctor’s prescription, and that the physician is protected from prosecution under Montana’s homicide laws. Montana appealed that ruling to the state’s high court.