Oregon Death with Dignity


Death with Dignity in the Ninth Circuit Court

On Wednesday, May 7, 2003, oral arguments in Oregon v. Ashcroft begin before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  These legal proceedings are the result of the Attorney General's appeal of U.S. District  Court Judge Robert E. Jones' written decision (April 17, 2002).  The  Ninth Circuit Court's decision will determine the immediate future of  Oregon's Death with Dignity law.

Our suit, filed on behalf of a Salem, OR, oncologist and pharmacist, advances the following principles in its case against the Ashcroft directive.   

1) The CSA does not apply: The Controlled Substances Act created a "closed system" intended to prevent trafficking and diversion. 

Physicians and pharmacists who prescribe and dispense under the Death with Dignity law are in full compliance with the state's standard of care and are not trafficking or diverting drugs.

2) The Department of Justice cannot change previous rulings in this manner: The Attorney General violated the Administrative Procedures Act by attempting to promulgate a substantive regulation (or amend an  existing regulation) without following the mandatory notice and comment procedure.

3) The Attorney General pushes federal - state limits:  The CSA lacks the requisite "clear statement" that the Supreme Court has required before it will find that Congress intended to alter the federal-state framework - in this case by permitting federal encroachment into areas traditionally reserved to the states.

4) The Attorney General abuses the commerce clause: The manner in which Oregonians die is not considered interstate commerce and the federal government may not use a superficial connection to commerce to justify an intrusion into areas traditionally reserved to the states.  The states are capable of addressing this issue themselves, and should be permitted to do so, as the Supreme Court contemplated in Glucksberg v. Washington, 521 U.S. 702, 117 S. Ct. 2258, 2275 (1997).

5) The Attorney General is in violation of Executive Order 13132 on Federalism: The document, Executive Order 13132 issued on August 4, 1999, by then-President Clinton, reaffirms the federal-state split stating, "The Framers recognized that the States possess unique authorities, qualities, and abilities to meet the needs of the people and should function as laboratories of democracy."

The Executive Order also explains that "the national government should be deferential to the States" and very clearly articulates procedures that the government should follow to include the states in any rulemaking, policies or decisions that affect state law directly.

The Ninth Circuit will likely issue a decision in the late summer. 

For the latest information on these legal proceedings and the activities of the Oregon Death with Dignity Center, please visit us: http://www.dwd.org.