Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Death Triumphs Over Ashcroft

As we're now in January, the juicy Supreme Court decisions will slowly start to trickle out. The biggest so far is Gonzalez v. Oregon, which dealt with whether the Attorney General could, in effect, shut down Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. The Court, by a 6-3 vote, sided with Oregon and rejected an attempt by former AG John Ashcroft to eliminate by fiat the right to physician-assisted suicide that a majority of Oregonians had supported (twice). In spite of that weighty result, the decision itself is a fairly dry battle of theories of statutory interpretation. The decision did not say that Congress lacks the power to prevent the use of controlled substances in physician-assisted suicides, only that the Controlled Substances Act as currently written does not give the AG the power to make that call. Given that holding, it's not surprising that the "pro-life" camp is mobilizing for Congressional action.

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