By a 6-3 vote the justices said that a federal drug law does not override the 1997 Oregon law. New Chief Justice John Roberts voted in the minority.
The Bush administration improperly tried to use a drug law to punish Oregon physicians who prescribe lethal doses of prescription medicines, the court majority said today.
In a statement, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, observed: “Today’s Supreme Court decision is not an endorsement of assisted suicide.”
He added: “All it means is that, under this particular statute, the attorney general may not prohibit a state from permitting federally-regulated drugs to be used in assisted suicide — provided, of course, that the particular state has legalized assisted suicide ….”
“It is important,” Perkins wrote, “that the traditional understanding of the medical role as one of healing not be confused by licensing doctors to kill. … As Justice Scalia noted in his dissent, ‘If the term legitimate medical purpose [a term used in the federal regulatory scheme] has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death.'”