Liberty Counsel Files Brief In The Supreme Court Opposing The Use Of Federally Controlled Substances Under Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law

May 9, 2005

Today Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court opposing the use of federally controlled substances under Oregon's Assisted Suicide law. The case is Gonzalez v. State of Oregon.

Oregon's Death with Dignity Act allows for a physician-assisted suicide. The U.S. Attorney General interpreted the federal Controlled Substances Act to prohibit physicians from prescribing controlled substances for assisted suicide. Liberty Counsel's brief argues that the Attorney General properly exercised his role as protector of the inalienable right to life. This right to life is manifested in the Declaration of Independence which states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, . . ."

John Locke believed that each individual owed a duty to God to preserve his or her life. The right to life, understood by the Founders, required the protection of all life and prohibited the right to license other individuals to imperil life. All other rights are contingent upon the right to life. Prohibiting physicians from using controlled substances to terminate the life of another furthers the government's interest in preserving life. The Model Penal Code prohibits assisted suicide. The U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Washington v. Glucksberg that "the criminal homicide laws are threatened by one who expresses a willingness to participate in taking the life of another even though the act may be accomplished with the consent, or at the request of the suicide victim." In 1990, the High Court in the Cruzan case noted that "the majority of states in this country have laws imposing criminal penalties on one who assists another to commit suicide." In Vacco v. Quill, the Supreme Court noted that assisted suicide "is contrary to the prohibition against using the tools of medicine to cause a patient's death."

The brief reviews many state court decisions prohibiting assisted suicide. The brief also notes that the American Medical Association "continues to stand by its ethical principle that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer."

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: "When a physician participates in a person's suicide by administering controlled substances, the line between healer and executioner is blurred, and the sanctity of life is lost. America should not become like Sweden, where patients wonder whether a physician with a syringe brings life or death."