Pro-Life Law Firm Backs Bush in Assisted Suicide Case

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 9, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Law Firm Backs Bush in Assisted Suicide Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 9, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A leading pro-life law firm on Monday filed an amicus brief supporting the Bush administration in its efforts to prevent federally controlled drugs from being used in assisted suicides in the state of Oregon.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft ruled in November 2001 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."

Under Ashcroft’s ruling, doctors who prescribe drugs for patients to use to kill themselves would lose their presctiption-writing ability.

The state of Oregon sued to overturn the ruling and the case has made its way to the Supreme Court.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a brief Monday asking the high court to overturn a federal appeals court decision that barred enforcement of Ashcroft’s directive.

"The directive is both legally sound and constitutional," said Jay Sekulow, ACLJ’s chief attorney.

"The Attorney General clearly has the authority to use a federal statute to take action against doctors who assist terminally ill patients commit suicide," Sekulow explained. "This critically important case raises a key question: should the federal government be permitted to legally prohibit physicians from prescribing life-ending federally controlled drugs to assist patients commit suicide?"

All of the 171 assisted suicides in the state in the six years the law has been on the books have used the federally controlled drugs.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Ashcroft and, in November, the Bush administration submitted an appeal of their decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The use of narcotics and other dangerous drugs is generally prohibited by federal law except when a doctor prescribes them for a “legitimate medical purpose.”

"We are hopeful the Supreme Court will conclude that the federal government has the authority to act and that federal drug laws must take precedence over the state’s decision to experiment with legalized assisted suicide," Sekulow concluded.

The lawsuit is expected to be heard this October when the court begins its next session. The case is No. 04-623 and is Gonzales v. Oregon.

Related web sites:
American Center for Law and Justice –
Ashcroft Supreme Court brief –
Physician: Abuses of Oregon Euthanasia Law Could Occur Regularly –