Supreme Court hears physician-assisted suicide case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday heard oral arguments on whether the federal government can halt doctors from assisting patients in taking their own lives under an Oregon statute allowing the practice. The justices appeared divided over the issue in Gonzales v. Oregon [Duke Law case backgrounder] of how much authority the federal government can exercise over doctors and medicine, two areas traditionally regulated by state law. Oregon's Death with Dignity Act [text], twice approved by voters in the state, is the only state law in the country allowing physician-assisted suicides. In 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered [text] a halt to the distribution of controlled drugs used by doctors for the suicides, arguing it was a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act [text]. The ABA has merit briefs filed in the case. Also Wednesday, the Court heard oral arguments in Shaffer v. Weast [Duke Law case backgrounder], in which it considered whether parents and school districts in disagreement over a disabled child's education program may seek administrative review of the issue. The ABA has merit briefs for the case. Reuters has more.

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