Daughter Hails Montana's Right-to-Die Ruling

The state also cited high rates of suicide in Montana and limited access to health care in more rural parts of the state, a landscape that it said would encourage assisted deaths.

The defendants also included ethical groups, who argued that legalizing assisted suicide would open the door to euthanasia, particularly for the old and disabled.

For 12 years, Baxter fought lymphocytic leukemia, but every bout with chemotherapy "knocked him down a bit," said King. At one point several years ago, he quit treatment, but then changed his mind.

"He decided to go back and pursue the chemo and finish out some of the end-of-life things before he passed," said King, an artist and trainer at Curves gym. "He had led a busy active live and he was not able to enjoy it anymore."

In addition to selling his RVs boats and other "toys" he contacted Compassion & Choices. "He was very private about it," said King, who found a stack of papers on his desk on day.

"I was really kind of selfish and wondered how it would affect the rest of us," she said. "I guess it surprised me. But we are all proud of him. This meant a lot to him."

The Supreme Court challenge also included five other Montana families who wanted aid in dying and could not access that choice.

Richard Gottshalk, a University of Montana philosophy professor, faced both physical and emotional pain "of stunning magnitude," according to his wife, Doris Fischer. In court papers, she said he was haunted by an awareness that his body was becoming rigid -- a feeling of being "chained to the bed" or "in prison."

In court papers, she said he was haunted by an awareness that his body was becoming rigid -- a feeling of being "chained to the bed" or "in prison."

His wife said he suffered panic attacks and claustrophobia, believing he was suffocating as his breath shortened. Gottshalk eventually succumbed on day four after receiving a morphine drip for severe muscle spasms and difficulty swallowing.

The plaintiffs argued that in terminal cases, pain medications often don't work. Bill Clarke, whose friend Janet Murdock is dying of ovarian cancer at 67, testified that her health is "hopeless and dismal."

"She tried to hasten death by stopping eating and drinking, but dehydration causes mouth and lips intolerable pain," Clarke told Missoulian.com. "The artificial wetting aids don't work, or she's allegoric to them, and she can't take morphine -- she becomes so demented. So she resumes taking water, but even small amounts delay death."

The Montana legislature is poised to follow enactment of safeguards and protections that are in place in Oregon, requiring two doctors and a psychiatric evaluation, if deemed necessary. The patient must make the request for end-of-life medications twice orally and once in writing and only have six months left to live.

According to a report from the Oregon Department of Human Services, 88 prescriptions were ordered and only 54 were used in 2008. A total of 441 terminally ill patients have taken their lives in the 11 years since the state's Death With Dignity law was enacted.

About 98 percent taking advantage of the law were in hospice; nearly 82 percent were dying of cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to state and independent studies compiled by Compassion & Choices.

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