Supreme Court to consider physician-assisted suicide

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The U.S. Supreme Court this week agreed to hear a Bush administration appeal to the Oregon law that allows physician-assisted suicide. It will be the first time since 1997 that the Court has considered the issue.

The Oregon law, which is the only such law in the nation, permits physicians to prescribe, but not administer legal prescription drugs to a terminally ill patient who has voluntarily decided to die, and can make healthcare decisions. Two physicians must agree that the patient only has six months to live.

Last Nov. 10, 2004, former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the Supreme Court to reverse the 9th Circuit Court decision, which upheld the Oregon law. The current case is called Gonzales versus Oregon, and is named after current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that terminally ill patients have no constitutional rights to assisted suicide but indicated that states, rather than the federal government, could determine the legality of the practice. A decision on the current case is expected by spring 2006.