July 20, 2005

Wyden, DeFazio, Blumenauer, Hooley and Wu Enter Brief with Supreme Court on Upcoming Assisted Suicide Case

Washington, DC - 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.) today filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in opposition to efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to overturn Oregons Death with Dignity Act. In the brief, the Oregon delegation members maintain that the 1971 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) did not provide former Attorney General John Ashcroft with the authority he claimed in 2001 to preempt the states lawWyden and the House members, who have worked to defeat congressional efforts to overturn Oregons physician-assisted suicide law, urged the Supreme Court to affirm the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that there is no legal basis under the CSA to overturn Oregons law. The Court is expected to hear the case in its next session, which begins in October.This brief tells the Supreme Court that theres simply no legal or logical basis for the Justice Departments continued efforts to thwart the will of Oregon voters on this medical matter traditionally left to the states, said Wyden. We felt it vital to weigh in on behalf of Oregonians who have twice spoken on this issue back home, who have made this decision for our state in full accordance with Federal law.The Bush administrations 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 am pleased that Attorney General Gonzalez attempt to overturn the will of the people has been no more successful than his predecessors, said Blumenauer. While physician-assisted suicide is a contentious issue, it is an issue handled at the state level and the Attorney General should not be permitted to deprive the citizens of Oregon and the nation the opportunity to make end-of-life decisions. Oregon has made its decision. Other states should be allowed to make their choice without federal government interference."The practice of medicine is a matter thats consistently been left up to the states. Oregonians have affirmed the Death with Dignity Act twice, said Hooley. Supporting democracy means defending the right of the majority to make decisions within the bounds of law. Oregons majority has spoken loud and clear. And thats why were here today: to take the side of democracy by upholding the will of the Oregon voters.The Federal Governments meddling in Oregon law is an infringement on Oregonians rights, an intrusion into doctor-patient relationships, and a serious attack on the advances made in pain treatment around the country, said Wu. The voters of Oregon approved the Death With Dignity Act, and I agree that it is of vital importance that the justices let Oregons law stand.In his original argument to overturn the Oregon law, Ashcroft maintained that any physician who prescribes a controlled substance to assist suicide in a manner consistent with the Oregon law has violated the federal CSA and should lose his or her license to administer controlled substances. In their amicus brief, the Oregon delegation members show that the Justice Department has overstepped its bounds.Enacted in 1970, the CSA draws a careful line between Federal and state authority to define the legitimate practice of medicine. While the law gave the Attorney General the right to track drugs manufactured or distributed in the United States that might be abused, it did not give the Attorney General the authority to make medical or scientific judgments. Those decisions were left to the states. The Oregon members brief contends that only another act of Congress could change the law and give the Attorney General that power, and the signers promise to work to defeat legislative efforts to change the CSA in order to subvert Oregons Death with Dignity law.The full text of the amicus brief is available online at wyden.senate.gov and at the Representatives web sites on www.house.gov.