December 05, 2006

Wyden, DeFazio, Blumenauer, Hooley and Wu Back Oregon Voters as Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Assisted Suicide Case

Washington, DC As the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case aimed at overturning Oregons twice-approved physician-assisted suicide law, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.) and David Wu (D-Ore.) reiterated their support for the states case. Earlier this year, these members of Oregons congressional delegation filed an amicus brief opposing efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to overturn Oregons Death with Dignity Act. In that brief they maintained, as Oregon argued before the Court today, that former Attorney General John Ashcroft used the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) incorrectly to bring the Justice Departments case and threaten Oregon physicians who follow the Oregon law.The Justice Departments attempt to go after law-abiding Oregon doctors hasnt held up in the lower courts, and their arguments were equally without merit today, said Wyden. Even a conservative reading of the law should lead to one conclusion: that Oregonians have a right to determine medical practice within our states own borders.The Bush administration's attempt to overturn the will of Oregon voters stomps on states rights; sticks the government between terminally ill patients and their doctors, struggling to make difficult decisions; and sets end of life pain treatment back 50 years, said DeFazio. I trust that this court will uphold states rights as lower courts have.The goal of this administration is to take away states decision making by imposing their moral judgment and agenda, said Blumenauer. Because this case is not just about end of life choices for terminal ill patients; it is about zealots who do not agree with the verdicts of the courts and the opinions of medial experts. Oregon made its decision and other states should be allowed to make their choice without federal government involvement.The Supreme Court should decide as the lower courts have in reinforcing Oregon's right to make its own choices on matters of medical practice. The Justice Department's meddling not only threatens the Death with Dignity law, but promises a chilling effect on pain management. Patients must not live and die in pain because their doctor is afraid of a criminal investigation by a zealous Justice Department, said Hooley.The Justice Department's meddling in Oregon law is an infringement on Oregonians rights who have twice voiced their support through the democratic process for the Death with Dignity Act, said Wu.The CSA is aimed at stopping interstate trafficking of illegal drugs and does not afford the Attorney General power to punish physicians who follow the Oregon law. These delegation members have promised to work to defeat legislative efforts to change the CSA for the purpose of subverting Oregons Death with Dignity Act.The full text of the amicus brief filed earlier this year is available online at and at the Representatives web sites on