News of the Day ... in Perspective5/28/2004
Ninth Circuit upholds Oregon assisted suicide law.
In a 2:1 decision, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the only law in the nation that permits physicians to assist patients in ending their lives, in State of Oregon et al. v. John Ashcroft.
Attorney General Ashcroft has held that physicians who prescribe controlled substances for the purpose of assisting suicide can face federal sanctions and prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
A doctor, a pharmacist, several terminally ill patients, and the State of Oregon challenged the authority of the federal government to regulate the practice of medicine.
The Court majority held that the purpose of the CSA was to fight drug abuse, not to regulate the practice of medicine.
Dissenting, Judge Wallace wrote that “There is simply no textual support for the majority’s conclusion that `the field of drug abuse,’ as discussed in the Controlled Substances Act, does not encompass drug-induced, physician-assisted suicide.”
The Department of Justice could petition for a rehearing by an 11-member panel or for a Writ of Certiorari to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. (New York Times 5/27/04).