Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Suicide Law

The Supreme Court today blocked the Bush administration's attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die, protecting Oregon's one-of-a-kind assisted-suicide law.

It was the first loss for Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the court's most conservative members - Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas - in a long but restrained dissent.

The administration improperly tried to use a federal drug law to pursue Oregon doctors who prescribe lethal doses of prescription medicines, the court said in a rebuke to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The ruling backed a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Ashcroft's "unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide." [more]

Reuters states that the Bush administration overstepped its authority when it barred doctors from helping terminally ill patients die in the only state that allows physician-assisted suicide, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. [more]

The ruling could free other states to pass laws like Oregon's, which is the only one of its kind in the US.

This was Chief Justice John Roberts first major case on ethics since he joined it.

Many had expected Roberts to oppose the law because he is a Roman Catholic, but others thought he might back it as an advocate of a state's right to govern its own affairs. [more]

Obviously Roberts does not believe in advocating for state's right, it appears that his religion is governing his decisions along with his devotion to an administration who used the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) incorrectly to bring the Justice Department's case and threaten Oregon physicians who follow the Oregon law.

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