Missoulian, March 8, 2011
One day after a Missoula County District Court judge ordered a hysterectomy for a woman with cancer, the Montana Supreme Court stepped in and halted the surgery to allow an appeal. Last week, Judge Karen Townsend found that the woman known as L.K. was not mentally competent and ordered that the surgery should be performed on Thursday. The next day, a public defender filed an emergency petition on L.K.'s behalf. The Supreme Court issued an order the same day providing for an expedited appeal within 30 days. The emergency petition decision described L.K. as a deeply religious woman who wants children, and balked at the hysterectomy on both those grounds. Her religion wasn't specified, but a psychiatrist and a physician from the Montana State Hospital termed her religious beliefs - including one that God had cured her - delusional. The physician testified at a March 1 hearing that without treatment, L.K.'s cancer could kill her within three years. The physician said that L.K.'s "religious delusions" interfered with her ability to make reasoned decisions about her care, and that L.K. didn't understand that she might die without the surgery, according to the petition.