Assisted Suicide Advocates Hope Supreme Court Rules Before Alito Joins

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Assisted Suicide Advocates Hope Supreme Court Rules Before Alito Joins

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 14, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito could affect the outcome in a key Supreme Court case on the issue of assisted suicide, but euthanasia proponents hope the court rules on the case before the Senate confirms him.

The high court has already held hearings in the case involving a Bush administration decision that federal law prohibits the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides in Oregon. All of the assisted suicides there have involved such drugs.

Oregon is asking the Supreme Court to throw out the Bush administration’s decision and advocates of assisted suicide hope the court will announce its ruling before Alito joins the court.

Should the decision get handed down int he next two weeks, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor could be the deciding vote in Oregon’s favor.

However, Jay Sekulow, lead counsel for the pro-life American Center for Law and Justice, says he thinks Alito will be on the court before a decision is made in the case.

During his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Alito expressed support for a previous Supreme Court ruling allowing patients to refuse food and water or lifesaving medical treatment.

At the same time, Alito expressed views that are largely deferential to the executive branch and, recognizing the supremacy of federal law, he is thought to be more likely to side with the Bush administration than O’Connor.

"Judge Alito respects the authority of the legislative and executive branches of government," Sekulow told AP.

"This was an action of then-Attorney General (John) Ashcroft that clearly was within his jurisdiction," Sekulow said. "So I think, at the end of the day, Judge Alito would be a good vote."

If the Senate approves Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts could opt for an entirely new hearing in the case or he could have Alito review the briefs and transcripts and join the court in issuing an opinion.

Barbara Coombs Lee, co-president of Compassion & Choices, a pro-euthanasia group, doesn’t want the court to hold another hearing.

"Our view has always been, in the cause of judicial economy, it would be better if the court did not have to rehear" the case, she told the Associated Press.

Lee said it would be "tricky" to attempt to figure out where Alito might stand in the case.