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Supreme Court upholds physician-assisted suicide in Oregon

Physician Practice Advisor, January 25, 2006

The Supreme Court upheld Oregon's Death with Dignity Act in a 6-to-3 ruling on January 17, according to a reporty by the Christian Science Monitor. The law allows Oregon residents who are mentally competent and diagnosed as terminally ill to ask a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs.

In reaching its determination, the high court said former Attorney General John Ashcroft overstepped his authority in November 2001 when he rewrote regulations under the federal Controlled Substances Act making it illegal for Oregon doctors to prescribe drugs to help a patient die.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision. According to the Christian Science Monitor report, Scalia said Ashcroft's directive should be accorded deference by the courts and allowed to stand. He added that he found reasonable the former attorney general's conclusion that helping someone die was not a "legitimate medical purpose."