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The Supreme Court decided to hear the case of Gonzales v. Oregon, the case where Oregon is challenging the Federal government’s authority to regulate prescription drugs for use in assisted suicides. 

This presents an opportunity for the Court to clearly re-establish the right of the Federal government to determine and enforce the proper uses of prescription drugs and other controlled substances, according to Americans United for Life.

The case is being heard by the Supreme Court after two lower court decisions undercut the authority of the Controlled Substances Act, a Federal law that has been in effect for decades and gives the Federal government to determine the medical use of prescription drugs it regulates.

“A state may have power to exempt physicians from liability under state law, but it cannot exempt physicians from federal law,” said Denise Burke, Senior Litigation Counsel at Americans United for Life. “Lower court rulings to the contrary appear to go out of their way to override traditional Federal drug controls allowing the misuse of drugs in Oregon’s unique policy that allows physicians to kill patients. The Supreme Court now has the chance to fix this problem.”

“Killing, either by consent or not, is never therapeutic,” Burke continued.

AUL attorneys pointed out that the question before the Court is not the validity of Oregon’s assisted suicide law, but whether physicians can use drugs regulated under Federal law for the purpose of killing patients.

“The Court is not being asked to invalidate Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Even if the Supreme Court upholds the authority of the Controlled Substances Act, it would simply mean that Oregon physicians cannot use Federally-controlled drugs to kill their patients,” said Clarke Forsythe, Esq., Director of AUL’s Project in Law and Bioethics.

“Just as the Supreme Court decided that California cannot override Federal law and allow medical marijuana, Oregon cannot ignore Federal law and allow Federally-controlled substances to be used in assisted suicide.”

On the lower court rulings, Forsythe commented, “These lower court rulings allow states to evade federal law. The Federal government clearly has had the authority to regulate drugs in the United
States for decades. The lower courts have made an arbitrary exception to this. By taking the case, the Court has the opportunity to remove all doubt around this critical area of drug law.”

[CHICAGO, February 22, 2005; Daniel McConchie at 312-492-7234 x213. Americans United for Life is the leading public-interest law firm dedicated to providing legal expertise and strategy in the field of life-affirming legislation, litigation, and public education]