Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law

The Supreme Court upheld an Oregon assisted suicide law today, stating that the federal government could not prohibit Oregon doctors from performing assisted suicides with federally controlled drugs.

In a 6-3 vote, the Justices ruled that a 1997 law, which has permitted the deaths of over 200 patients, can be upheld. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft had sued Oregon, claiming that using federally controlled drugs for euthanasia lacked a “legitimate medical purpose.”

The law only covers extremely sick patients.

The case Gonzales v. Oregon, which bears the name of the current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, tested the limits of federal authority in enforcing drug laws.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the opinion for the majority stated that the federal government can enforce laws against drug dealers and pass rules for insuring health and safety.

However he also said that the authority desired by the government was “inconsistent with the design of the statute in other fundamental respects. The attorney general does not have the sole delegated authority under law."

The six judges in the majority were Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

The dissenting justices were Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.