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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Supreme Court Takes Up Assisted Suicide Case



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Good news from Washington: The United States Supreme Court will rule next year on whether the Attorney General of the United States had the right to interpret the federal Controlled Substances Act as prohibiting the use of drugs regulated by the feds for use in assisted suicide on the basis that under FEDERAL LAW, assisted suicide is not a legitimate medical use of such substances.

Of course, as usual, the MSM gets the story wrong. For example, CBS claims that the ruling will determine whether the federal government can penalize doctors who participate in assisted suicide generally. But that isn't true. If the federal government wins this case, assisted suicide will still be legal in Oregon and if doctors prescribe non federally controlled substances for use in assisted suicide, there would be nothing the federal government could do.

I will write more fully on this matter soon. But the important point about this case is that it is about federalism, but not in the usual sense of "states rights." It is actually a "federal rights" case that will determine whether the Controlled Substances Act can be enforced consistently throughout the country.

CBS also juxtaposes the Oregon assisted suicide controversy with the plan of the odious Michael Schiavo to begin today the process of dehydrating Terri to death. CBS claims that both cases are about the "right to die." Actually, neither are, since there isn't such a right. In Oregon terminally ill patients have the right to ask for a lethal overdose. They don't have the right to receive it. The right is all the doctor's. Schiavo deals with the right to refuse medical treatment, which the Supreme Court already ruled was not the same as assisted suicide. Still, given that legalized assisted suicide would eventually lead to open euthanasia as a medical treatment, and given that medical decision making is allowed to be made by surrogates when a patient can't decide for themselves, the joining of the two cases may be factually wrong but is still figuratively right.


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