Doctors Group Backs Bush Administration Appeal on Assisted Suicide Case

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 10, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctors Group Backs Bush Administration Appeal on Assisted Suicide Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 10, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A national organization for Christian doctors applauded the move by the Bush administration to appeal a federal appeals court ruling striking down a decision by Attorney General John Ashcroft prohibiting the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides in Oregon.

Ashcroft ruled that the drugs used in assisted suicides in Oregon violated the Controlled Substances Act because killing a patient does not constitution a "legitimate medical purpose."

The Christian Medical Association, a group of 17,000 doctors and medical professionals, says it agrees with Ashcroft’s determination.

"The Controlled Substances Act was designed to prevent using drugs for non-medical purposes in every state–not every state except Oregon," said David Stevens, M.D., the group’s president.

"When a state or a doctor uses such drugs not to heal or to relieve pain, but simply to kill, that is not a medical purpose; it is killing. Killing doesn’t require medical training or compassion," Dr. Stevens said.

CMA Associate Executive Director Gene Rudd, M.D., added, "What we need is not more power for doctors who use drugs to kill their patients, but more power for doctors who use drugs to heal and comfort their patients."

"That’s what medicine is all about. First, do no harm," Dr. Rudd explained.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department submitted an appeal of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paul Clement, acting solicitor general, said the law conflicts with the powers of the federal government to regulate the use of narcotics.

All of the drugs used in the Oregon suicides fall under federal regulations and Ashcroft’s decision to prohibit use of the drugs "is the position maintained by 49 states, the federal government and leading associations of the medical profession," the brief said.

Burke Balch, the director of the department of medical ethics at the National Right to Life Committee applauded the Bush administration for filing the brief. He told that having a pro-life attorney general was one benefit from re-electing the president.

Had Bush not been re-elected, a John Kerry administration likely would have withdrawn from the case.

"Now it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether killing patients will or will not be considered a ‘legitimate medical purpose’ — the only reason, under federal law, that doctors may legally prescribe federally controlled narcotics and other dangerous drugs," Balch told