Page last updated at 21:57 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Montana paves way for assisted suicide

Bottles of pills
Oregon and Washington State already allow assisted suicide

The Supreme Court in Montana has ruled that nothing in the state's law prevents patients from seeking medical assistance to commit suicide.

The ruling paves the way for Montana to become the third US state alongside Washington and Oregon to allow patients to seek the procedure.

The decision comes a year after a lower court ruled it constitutional.

Doctors will now be able to prescribe the necessary drugs to the terminally ill without fear of prosecution.

The state's Supreme Court said there was nothing in its precedent showing that doctor-assisted suicide was against public policy.

However, it did not go as far the district court, which ruled last year that the right of terminally-ill patients to ask their doctors to help them die was protected by the state's constitution.

District Judge Dorothy McCarter ruled in December 2008 that Montana's rights to privacy and dignity also covered a mentally competent, terminally-ill patient's right to die.

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