Gonzales v. Oregon
What's at Stake
Reviewing whether the federal government improperly undermined Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act by threatening doctors with revocation of their license to prescribe narcotic drugs if they assisted in implementing the Act. DECIDED
Oregon enacted its Death With Dignity Act to assist mentally competent, terminally ill patients in making end-of-life decisions. Reversing an earlier decision by Attorney General Reno, Attorney General Ashcroft then issued a directive stating that any doctor who prescribed narcotic drugs for this purpose risked the loss of his or her federal license. Oregon sued, and the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Attorney General had exceeded his authority under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The ACLU amicus brief supports that ruling, arguing that a contrary conclusion would raise serious constitutional issues about the government’s ability to interfere with such personal choices.