High Court OKs Doctor-Assisted Suicide
Ruling Prevents Federal Officials From Interfering in Oregon Law
Advocates Applaud Decision
Assisted-suicide backers celebrated the decision.
"It is enormously important nationally," Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, said of the decision. The group lobbied for Oregon's law. "The Oregon experience makes it clear, this can be done reasonably, responsibly -- in a way that improves end-of-life care."
State legislatures in Vermont and California are considering laws similar to Oregon's. Supporters said Tuesday's decision improved their chances of passing the bills by easing the concerns of some lawmakers that the court could allow Washington to intervene to stop implementation.
"This decision by the Supreme Court today certainly gives us a lot of momentum, we believe. We've had a lot of members say let's wait to see what the Supreme Court has to say and now they've ruled," said California Assemblyman Lloyd E. Levine, a Democrat and chief sponsor of an assisted-suicide bill pending in the legislature there.
Is Legal Battle Over?
Despite the decision, legal fights may not be over. Dorothy Timbs, legislative council for the National Right to Life Committee, points out that the court's ruling was narrow and that it "left the door open" for later federal laws that could stop assisted suicide.
"Nothing in the decision will suggest that Congress can't amend the [Controlled Substances] Act to say that federally controlled drugs can't be used to kill people," Timbs tells WebMD.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Tuesday that President Bush was "disappointed" by the court's decision. "The president has strongly advocated building a culture of life in America, and he's going to continue working to do that," McClellan said.