updated 12/31/2009 3:01:49 PM ET 2009-12-31T20:01:49

The Montana Supreme Court said Thursday that nothing in state law prevents patients from seeking physician-assisted suicide, paving the way for the procedure.

A year ago, a state District Court judge ruled that the state's constitutional rights to privacy and dignity protect the right of terminally ill Montanans to get the drugs needed to die peacefully.

But the advocates have said a decision from the state Supreme Court was needed before physician-assisted suicide would be embraced by the medical community.

The Supreme Court disagreed that the Montana Constitution guarantees the right. But it said in an opinion Thursday that "we find nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy."

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