Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States v. Oregon
Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
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The state of Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide when voters approved a ballot measure enacting the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (ODWDA). 4 Under the Oregon law, a person who has been diagnosed with a fatal disease that will kill the patient within six months may request a prescription from his or her physician for a lethal dose of medicine for the purpose of ending their life. Once the request is made, another physician must confirm the diagnosis. If the confirmation is made, the patient may be provided with the prescription. The patient, and not the physician, must administer the medicine. The Oregon law exempts from civil or criminal liability state-licensed physicians who, in compliance with the safeguards in ODWDA, dispense or prescribe a lethal dose of drugs upon the request of a terminally ill patient.
The U.S. Attorney General issued a rule holding that the provision of medicine for assisted suicide under the Oregon law violated the Controlled Substance Act,5 a federal statute designed to bar illicit drug dealing. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal rule was invalid. Thus, assisted suicides under the Oregon Act could continue. In its decision the Supreme Court stated that the states have Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“great latitude under their police powers to legislate as to the protection of the lives, limbs, health, comfort, and quiet of all persons.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
The Supreme Court noted that Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Several states in addition to Oregon permit assisted suicide including Montana and Washington. No state permits euthanasia, that is, where a physician or another party administers a lethal injection. Today, many persons in the United States support assisted suicide, while others do not. This issue will continue to be debated as states determine whether or not to enact assisted-suicide laws. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243, 126 S.Ct. 904, 163 L.Ed.2d 748, Web 2006 U.S. Lexis 767 (Supreme Court of the United States)
Critical Legal Thinking Questions
Should the law permit physician-assisted suicide? Would you want to have physician-assisted suicide as an option available if you were terminally ill?