Gonzales v. Oregon

Gonzales v. Oregon
(Previously titled, Oregon v. Ashcroft)

On November 6, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a Directive stating that a doctor could lose his or her federal registration to prescribe controlled substances if that registration is used to prescribe federally controlled substances for assisted suicide.
The Ashcroft Directive became the subject of court proceedings.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case on May 7, 2003.  On May 26, 2004, in a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit declared that Ashcroft overstepped his authority in issuing the Directive.

On July 12, 2004, the Justice Department petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its May decision.  The Court refused a rehearing.

On November 9, 2004, the Justice Department petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and, on February 22, 2005, the Court agreed to do so.  Oral arguments were heard on October 5, 2005.

In a 6-3 decision, on January 17, 2006, the Court held that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) does not allow the Attorney General to prohibit doctors from prescribing federally controlled drugs for physician-assisted suicide in a state where the state law permits physician-assisted suicide.

“The dying need TLC, not rulings” by Wesley J. Smith
(San Francisco Chronicle, 1/22/06)

Opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Oregon. (Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Stevens, O’Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined.  Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Roberts and Thomas joined.  Justice Thomas also filed a dissenting opinion. (1/17/06)

Transcript of oral arguments in Gonzales v. Oregon. (10/05)

Amicus Curiae Brief of International Task Force in U.S. Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Oregon. (5/8/05). 

Overview of Gonzales v. Oregon
Contrary to the claims of assisted-suicide advocates, the Ashcroft Directive would not overturn Oregon’s assisted suicide law nor would it prevent effective pain control.

Ashcroft Directive
Text of Ashcroft Directive and text of Ashcroft Letter to Health Professionals regarding the use of federally controlled substances to control pain.

Text of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision (5/26/04).

Amicus Curiae brief of International Task Force in Oregon v. Ashcroft.

More information about Gonzales v. Oregon (Oregon v. Ashcroft):

“Euthanizing the CSA: Ready for 50 different drug-control regimes?
The validity of the Oregon law was never at stake in Oregon v. Ashcroft. (National Review Online, 5/27/04)

“State of Chaos: An assisted-suicide ruling creates deadly confusion”
Oregon v. Ashcroft isn’t about the legality of assisted suicide in Oregon.   It isn’t a fight over “states right.”  The ultimate ruling in the case will determine whether states can pass laws opting their citizens out of federal laws and regulations with which state lawmakers happen to disagree. (National Review Online, 10/17/02)

“Media reports false as briefs are filed in Oregon v. Ashcroft appeal”
(ITF Update, vol. 16, no. 3, 2002)

“Courts to determine if assisted suicide is ‘legitimate’ under federal law”
(ITF Update, vol. 16, no. 1, 2002)

Spotlight on Oregon
News, articles, reports and text of Oregon’s assisted suicide law.