Supreme Court Upholds State's Assisted Suicide Law

  Supreme Court Upholds State's Assisted Suicide Law

Posted by CN Staff on January 17, 2006 at 17:08:45 PT
By Stephen Henderson,  Knight Ridder Newspapers 
Source: KRT  

Washington, D.C. -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a blow to the Bush administration's efforts to curb assisted suicide, saying a federal drug law can't be used to punish doctors who, under the state law of Oregon, help terminally ill patients end their lives. The ruling clears a legal morass surrounding the long-embattled Oregon law and paves the way for other states to consider assisted-suicide measures that involve physicians.
It also makes clear a court majority believes executive power cannot be expanded by a president beyond limits set by Congress in some cases - a point that could carry added significance in an era of increasingly bold assertions of executive power by the Bush administration. "It's a reminder to the executive branch that they will be bound by a tight, lawyerly reading of a statute," said Marc Spindelman, who teaches law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. "It may say something about how other claims of authority will be handled." The ruling might also inspire Congress, under pressure from groups opposed to assisted suicide, to pass a law that gives the Department of Justice more specific permission to combat assisted suicide. The court, by a 6-3 vote, said Congress clearly didn't intend to do that with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft had declared in 2001 that the law implicitly permitted him to decide that assisted suicide wasn't a "legitimate medical purpose" and to prevent doctors from acting under the Oregon law. But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said that declaration assumed "an authority that goes well beyond the Attorney General's statutory power." He noted that Ashcroft's interpretation "delegates to a single Executive officer the power to effect a radical shift of authority from the states to the federal government." Federal drug laws didn't "have this far-reaching intent to alter the federal-state balance," Kennedy said. The ruling drew pointed dissents from Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining Scalia's opposition without explanation. Scalia said Ashcroft's reading of the law was reasonable and that the court's past decisions required deference to the executive branch to interpret Congress' intent in a particular statute. Thomas said the ruling didn't square with a 2004 high court ruling that permitted use of drug laws to regulate medical marijuana. Roberts' silent opposition to the ruling left no clues to his take on issues such as the scope of executive authority under federal drug laws and the balance between federal and state power. The case was the first high-profile one he'd heard and it was argued just days after he was confirmed as chief justice. Roberts left unexplained how this case differs in his view from a 1997 court ruling that said states should be free to decide how to handle end-of-life issues. Roberts praised that ruling at the time, saying it was important "not to have too narrow a view of protecting personal rights." The Oregon law has been a subject of dispute since the day it passed in 1994. It allows a team of doctors to determine when terminally ill patients can be given lethal doses of prescribed drugs. About 200 people have ended their lives under the law. The Clinton administration concluded in the late 1990s that it had no role in deciding the law's validity, and Congress was unable to muster the votes to attack it directly through legislation. When the Bush administration took over in 2001, though, the federal policy changed. Ashcroft announced that he read the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) differently from Clinton officials and that he would try to revoke the licenses of doctors who participated in the Oregon program. The state challenged Ashcroft's action, saying he had overstepped the bounds of the federal drug law and intruded into matters of medical practice standards, which are historically reserved to the states. Two lower courts sided with the state, and the Bush administration appealed to the Supreme Court. The case raised issues about the scope of executive power to interpret legislation, as well as the reach of the federal government into areas typically handled by states. The ruling largely avoided the federal-vs.-state issue and boiled down to a fine reading of how executive agencies interpret congressional legislation. Some court watchers said the justices may not have been as unified on the difficult federal power question and were in more agreement about the administrative law issue. Kennedy wrote that while the federal drug law gave the attorney general broad powers to help decide which drugs should be legal and under what circumstances, it doesn't grant authority to make unilateral medical decisions. "In the face of the CSA's silence on the practice of medicine generally and its recognition of state regulation of the medical profession, it is difficult to defend the Attorney General's declaration that the statute impliedly criminalizes physician-assisted suicide," he wrote. Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed. Scalia said Ashcroft's interpretation of the power that Congress gave him was a "perfectly valid" one and that it met the court's standards for deference to the executive branch. "The question before us is not whether Congress CAN do this, or even whether Congress SHOULD do this; but simply whether Congress HAS done this in the CSA," Scalia wrote. "I think there is no doubt that it has. If the term `LEGITIMATE medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death." Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said Scalia's dissent is reflective of his longtime view that courts should defer to elected branches to determine the scope of authority defined in legislation. "Scalia is willing to let agencies interpret statutes in ways that expand their authority," he said. He said Roberts' decision to join Scalia's opinion "may indicate that he's somewhat sympathetic to Scalia's view of the relative role of courts versus agencies in construing statutes." Source: KRT (Wire)Author: Stephen Henderson,  Knight Ridder NewspapersPublished: January 17, 2006Copyright: 2006 Knight RidderRelated Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News To Review Oregon's Right-To-Die Law Wants Oregon Suicide Law Blocked

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Comment #18 posted by whig on January 21, 2006 at 01:55:57 PT
Good explanation
Since FoM asked if someone could explain the Oregon assisted suicide case, I found a really clear explanation of the whole background to this case:
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Comment #17 posted by siege on January 18, 2006 at 06:36:41 PT
domestic spying program George Stephanopoulos
News of the covert domestic spying program last month sparked an outcry by both Democrats and some members of Bush's own party. Many lawmakers and rights groups questioned whether it violates the US Constitution. Of course, when one looks at which Republicans are joining the Democrats, it's the RINO (Republican In Name Only) brigade members such as Specter, Hagel, Snow, and others who should have switched parties many moons ago."We're going to explore it in depth," Specter said on ABC television's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on January 18, 2006 at 06:05:25 PT
JustGetnBy made a double post so I removed the extra one.
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Comment #15 posted by whig on January 18, 2006 at 06:02:02 PT
FoM, where's #12?
There seems to be a gap in the messages on this thread.
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Comment #14 posted by The GCW on January 18, 2006 at 02:21:21 PT
So,To receive states rights granted in Oregon for Us who are ungranted in Raich, can We use cannabis for assisted suicide; the devil weed kills.Passed out / fainted, watching a cat get a shot; but I gotta see blood every day. Why; what’s going on; and who do You ask. And when You ask, how do You know who You are listening to?Pain, from the beginning; pain still; pain to the end.I could see Myself using Oregon, with out the assistance; with out calling it suicide.Learning pain really isn’t My friend. Been tricked. Brought here; want out; but it has always been the plan; gotta stick to it.They all know a father; they all know Me.Cannabis makes Me feel closer to God; and that’s a sin.Ask the priest who doesn’t even know it’s the Sin of the Priests; but He thinks He knows the Father; who tells Him He is.They let Me in but they wont let Me out. They want Me to incorporate; when all I want is to carpenter.Guitared if I have the time; but when I get it I don’t want it; I want Oregon but I don’t want to travel.THCUAbout 1978, I got a ticket for crossing the street with a red light and no traffic hit Me and in the park the cop told Me to spill the joint and go free. I didn’t pay the ticket; they have a warrant for Me. Can’t go to Oregon to see.Lumps; lumps in My throat; lumps in My colon; lumps in my testicle; lumps my whole life; made Me hate My name at from the start.Gives Me gas; will I later hurt when I fart?I’m tired; been tired; but it aint tired that I feel; it’s pain, when I stop to feel what is real.THCUEvery Wednesday is Hemp DayHempty Dempty sat on a wall.
Hempty Dempty had a great fall.
And all the kings army and all the kings priests
Wouldn’t put Hempty back together again.
But Our Father got tired and came back to say,
Hempty Dempty will be put back together today.THCUHemp hummus;
Fruit Omelets;
My last meal.
Flowers that don’t stop blossoming 
They want to steal.They didn’t feed Me;
Made Me sick as a stricken seal.
When I got tired and wanted to leave;
They stopped Me; it was surreal.If I had the courage; 
I’d leave here too soon.
Leave the way I came;
Floating in a universe of calm;
Pain with comfort;
Pain with gain.
It’s all discomfort;
Pain is lame.He’s brilliant; He’s White
But they will not listen
To the crystals
That glisten.A wife and a life;
Love and strife.
With out it; I’m lost.
Roller coasting;
Makes Me sick;
Let Me off.Reaching out and when You reach;
You’ve only manipulated Your speech.Listen to the blood;
The blood of the Christ
The blood of Abel
Above or below the table.I Am in trouble;
Where do I go?
I won’t go anywhere;
Don’t stay here.
Back is all that’s left.Because forward is too far away.Oregon, I Am unable.
Death isn't the end;
It's only the middle.
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Comment #13 posted by whig on January 17, 2006 at 23:20:35 PT
I don't view myself as being a parental figure to you or anyone who is old enough to be participating here. I'm too young to have adult children of my own, and I'm coming to a place of my own awareness that is still very recent, barely more than two years ago I could hardly care for myself much less for my family and friends, I was wracked with pain from a collapsed hip and I was heavily medicating myself just to deal with it, and I needed time to rebuild.Which really makes my point again that I'm no better than anyone else who is honestly trying to make this a nicer world, all of us have our perspectives and our insights and we have different degrees of awareness as to different parts of the whole. Martha is like our den mother here, I've told her before and she's what keeps us a loving community, it's not something I could do, and I don't know anyone else in this movement who can. I really think this is ground zero, right here. Home ground.Since we're all a family, I don't need to adopt you into that, because if you've chosen to be part then you are, as easy as can be. I love how the news stories here are really just sort of an anchor to current events, it seems like we actually just talk about whatever we think our other family members will care about. I'm glad to be appreciated, thanks for letting me know.
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Comment #11 posted by JustGetnBy on January 17, 2006 at 22:29:02 PT

Please take this in the spirit intended: After reading your post to FOM, I have to ask you a question.... Would you adopt me !!!!  If my elders had half the kindness and maturity you express, I wouldn't have to had worked as hard as I have, nor taken as many lumps as I have, had I been associated with sane, calm, nice people.  I know that sounds a little crazy, but it was meant as an " Atta Boy"
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on January 17, 2006 at 21:40:14 PT

whig and everyone
My feelings about the need to agree on everything is I don't think we should even try. How can I expect anyone to think like me. No one has seen my life but me. The same goes for all of us here. This comment isn't about politics or lawyers but the sense of community we have on CNews. I don't want anyone to change. All I have ever wanted is for all of us to be civil to one another. That is the most important thing to me. When people are civil we learn from one another. When we get angry and argue we cause cracks in our community. Then we don't learn anything. Now don't think I am talking about you because this is just me sharing how I look at what is important and what isn't important. This is for anyone who wants to read it.
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Comment #9 posted by whig on January 17, 2006 at 21:22:01 PT

FoM #6
Well, lawyers like to use lots of words and try to reinterpret everything to the benefit of their clients, and government lawyers are no different in this respect. This isn't meant as a bash on lawyers in general, there are ethical practitioners, but the system encourages this, and clearcut cases aren't much litigated because there is nothing to argue over. In time, all of this argument redefines the boundaries of terms which define the gray areas and rarely do we obtain a bright line because if the language was gray to begin with then no amount of judicial review will make it otherwise. The legislators don't want to repeal the bad laws, they just pile more on top to try to get the outcomes they want, and everyone participating in this whole game of government is constantly putting desired ends ahead of appropriate means.Now I'll be the first to admit there are problems I'd like to see solutions for, but I try to apply myself in ways that are consistent with my own moral sense of right, for me to commit a wrong in furtherance of any goal is to, at the very least, pile one more wrong on the world, and will not undo the wrongs that others do, so overall it worsens things.I say that the means are the ends. This is why I don't participate in politics even when I think it might help achieve some sort of worthwhile goal: it would corrupt me to do it, and if I am corrupted, then how can I call for justice? If I resort to force, how can I be for peace? If I will become what I despise to destroy my adversary, I become the adversary of my present self.What I do a lot is talk and write. Here and elsewhere, with my friends, with my family, with people who are involved in politics and in the legal system, with people who are not, because I do not withhold my counsel from anyone I think may benefit by it, even when I know they may disagree, as long as I am welcome to do so.And the fact that you and I may not always agree does not reduce my respect for you in the least, because I know that you do what you think you should do, you follow your own conscience and I have done things in the past which I don't now, and I will undoubtedly decide in the future to do some things differently than I do now. None of us is perfect, all of us have something to learn from one another, and if we are honest and respectful of one another then this is precisely how we will be able to replace a broken system with a better one.
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Comment #8 posted by OverwhelmSam on January 17, 2006 at 20:20:36 PT

An Army of Private Investigators
If some of our organizations or supporters would take the initiative to hire private investigators to investigate the private and business dealings of the hateful representatives, judges, adiminstrators (especially in the ONDCP and DEA), governors, mayors, police chiefs, district attorneys and city councilmen who perpetuate this hateful marijuana war against their own people, many of them would be busted and subjected to their own laws. Poetic justice for the way they treat patients whose only crime is to seek relief. Bill Frist's and Tom Delay's criminal activities were discovered by somebody behind the scenes. We can go after the Souders, Santoriums and Sensenbrenners too. Let's get serious.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on January 17, 2006 at 20:16:38 PT

Anderson Cooper 360
I just watched a piece on Assisted Suicide and it was helpful for me to see. One thing they said that I thought I should mention is they said they might try to do away with state laws and make drug issues federal. That seemed serious and I thought I should say something.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on January 17, 2006 at 19:34:20 PT

You are probably right. My problem is I can't get my mind to really understand what a good answer would be in cases that are so difficult to figure out. It almost doesn't seem to matter what is fair but who uses the best words to confuse the issue and that opens a door to more cases. I just wish a yes or no and an easy to understand explanation was all that was allowed to be said.
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Comment #5 posted by whig on January 17, 2006 at 19:22:05 PT

FoM, you're going to see a lot of mentions of Raich in future cases, because it presently stands as the outlying limit of the commerce cause jurisprudence. Where Wickard once defined that limit, and Raich's attorneys basically dared the supreme court to cross that line, they did so.
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Comment #4 posted by MikeC on January 17, 2006 at 19:02:18 PT

You could not have been more accurate with your comments. The drug war is nothing more than government protection of corporate drug profits by gunpoint.
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on January 17, 2006 at 18:23:19 PT

The Cannabis Threat
The fact that the supremes ruled for State's rights in this assisted suicide case and against State's rights in Raich is proof that medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp are major threats to the corrupted,unsustainable establishment. The war on recreational cannabis is a smokescreen and nothing more than an excuse to keep medicinal and industrial applications of this versatile plant prohibited.THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...Steven E. Jones: A Physics Professor Speaks Out on 9/11:
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Comment #2 posted by siege on January 17, 2006 at 17:52:10 PT

constitution is what we say it is

the lawlessness of so many of today’s rulings to the revolt against the common law that is Christian through and through. The revolt was led from the Harvard Law School by professors such as its Dean, Roscoe Pound. The replacement was the tyranny of case law.The case law preferred by Pound and his followers allowed them to slip out from under the constraints of the timeless and universal precepts foundational to the Common Law. Case law allows judges to “make law.” One of Pound’s followers, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, made this amazing statement: “We are under a constitution, but the constitution is what we say it is.”Equally as amazing as Hughes’ assertion was the failure to impeach him for violating his oath of office. But as Stormer points out, the idea of absolutes binding men died in the pulpits before it died in the civil realm. the result of judicial lawmaking “an on-going Constitutional Convention.” I would call it a coup d’etat. This coup has been hard to spot because the judges did not have a bunch of colonels circling the seat of government with tanks. We have witnessed a coup by increments ­ something that is much harder to detect.There has been a concerted effort to exclude the Declaration of Independence from the corpus of binding law. This is a legal impossibility in view of the nature of the Declaration ­ it is a contract much the same as Articles of Incorporation are. No one is at liberty to unilaterally change the terms of a contract.Our fourth president, John Quincy Adams, had this to say about the foundational role of the Declaration for the Constitution and laws made pursuant to it:The virtue which had been infused into the Constitution of the United States…was no other than…those abstract principles which had been first proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence ­ namely the self-evident truths of the natural and unalienable rights of man…and the sovereignt`y of the people, always subordinate to the rule of right and wrong, and always responsible to the Supreme Ruler of the universe for the rightful exercise of that power. This was the platform upon which the Constitution of the United States had been erected.The boldness of the Court’s usurpation is somewhat like the old line of the crook who is caught in the act exclaiming, “Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?” To give but one example, consider the 14th Amendment. The 39th Congress expressly stipulated that the Amendment was not designed to control schools, voting and elections. Indeed, that was so well understood that the 15th Amendment was enacted in order to deal with voting.The record of the clear intent of the framers of the 14th Amendment has not stopped the Supreme Court from inventing the doctrine of incorporation out of thin air. This has allowed the Supremes to increase consolidation of power in their own hands (and in the hands of their willing accomplices in the legislative and the executive branches) in Washington. This has been done at the expense of the Constitutional reservation of most governmental powers to the states and to the people.Incorporation might be best understood by thinking of it as incorporating stolen powers. The lack of jurisdiction for many of the Court’s decisions is comparable to the city of Paris levying a tax to be paid by citizens of the United States in the U.S.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 17, 2006 at 17:16:26 PT

Just a Note
I thought I should post an article about Oregon's Assisted Suicide since Raich is mentioned. Maybe someone can figure it out since it goes right over the top of my head.
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