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After Montana joined Washington and Oregon in legalizing physician-assisted suicide late last year, Montanans trying to kill themselves are having trouble finding a doctor to fill their “exit prescriptions.”

The Denver-based assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) is seeking to attract doctors willing to help patients exercise their “constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide” in Montana by releasing a statement from a 67-year-old woman who was not able to find a doctor willing to prescribe lethal drugs.

“It’s really sad,” said Kathryn Tucker, a lawyer for Compassion & Choices, in an Associated Press report. “Here we are after the ruling and Janet Murdock can’t exercise that right.”

The Montana Medical Association, which represents physicians in Montana, issued a policy statement following the December 2008 ruling by First Judicial District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter which allowed doctors to help people kill themselves without facing penalties under the state’s homicide laws.

“The Montana Medical Association does not condone the deliberate act of precipitating the death of a patient,” the policy states, “and does not accept the proposition that death with dignity may be achieved only through physician-assisted suicide.”

Dr. Kirk Stoner, president of the Montana Medical Association, said assisted suicide goes against the group’s code of ethics.

“Our reason for being is to care for our patients,” he said in the AP report.

Conservative bioethicist Wesley J. Smith praised the Montana Medical Association for “refusing to cooperate with the suicide agenda” and pointed out that assisted suicide proponents have twisted the meaning of the Hippocratic Oath to defend their position.

The Compassion & Choices (Hemlock Society) blog states that, “The Hippocratic Oath demands this foremost from physicians: Do No Harm. Prolonging the suffering of a dying person is doing harm. Offering a choice to end the suffering, if that is what the person desires, is the way to do no harm.”

Smith notes that the Oath actually states: “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.”

Montana District Court Legalizes Assisted Suicide
[7Apr09, T. M. Baklinski, Helena, MT,]