Family Research Council

February 2005 - The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a case involving Oregon's euthanasia law. After passage of the law in 1997, the Drug Enforcement Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, notified the State of Oregon that using lethal doses of controlled drugs to kill patients is a violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. However, the Attorney General at the time, Janet Reno, prohibited DEA from enforcing the law in Oregon, thus giving a green light to Oregon euthanasia doctors. When John Ashcroft became Attorney General he reversed Reno because her order was in direct conflict with federal law. A federal court challenge resulted. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Oregon law and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.

FRC filed this brief with the high court urging it to hear the case, arguing that the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution mandates that state laws are preempted by federal laws when they are directly in conflict as in this case. We also reminded the court of ethicist Sissela Bok's warning that, "No society has yet worked out the hardest questions of how to help those patients who desire to die, without endangering others who do not." Our brief noted that experiments with euthanasia by the Nazis in Germany, by the Dutch and today, by others have had disastrous results. The number of patients in Oregon reporting a concern about being a burden on the family increased from 12 percent in 1998 to 63 percent in 2000, subsequent to passage of the assisted suicide law. The case is Gonzales v Oregon. It will be decided before July though no date has been set for oral argument.