Call it the triangle of death.

Montana has joined neighboring Oregon and Washington to become, at least temporarily, the third American state to allow doctor-assisted suicide.

A state judge ruled Dec. 6 that “the Montana state constitution’s protections for human dignity and individual privacy permit competent, terminally-ill Montana residents to get medications causing a peaceful death,” The Wall Street Journal’s health blog reported Dec. 8.

The case involved a retired truck driver who has leukemia and wants to have access to doctor-assisted suicide if he decides to take his own life.

Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath, who will be sworn in next month as chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court, said it’s likely the state will appeal the ruling.

“It’s a major constitutional issue, and the Supreme Court should rule on it,” said McGrath, Associated Press reported.

During the trial, judge Dorothy McCarter compared the value of a human life to that of a pet.

“I mean, we put our pets to sleep when they’re suffering, and that’s considered humane,” McGrath commented. “And yet, if we want to do it to our loved ones, it’s considered murder.”

In its section on euthanasia, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible (no. 2276).

“Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable” (no. 2277).

With respect to suicide, the Catechism states, “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God” (no. 2281)

— Tom McFeely