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Nothing to Die Over

Wesley J. Smith

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A narrow assisted-suicide ruling.

The news about Monday's 6-3 assisted suicide ruling is not as bad as euthanasia opponents might have feared. Indeed, even in the midst of disappointment that Oregon carried the day, there is some moderately good news: Gonzales v. Oregon was not an exercise in judicial activism. The Supreme Court did not issue a sweeping endorsement of physician-assisted suicide. Nor, did it "uphold" the Oregon statue as a matter of constitutional law. Rather, the Court's decision is so narrowly drawn and steeped in the arcania of regulatory and statutory interpretation that it would normally spark little interest outside of administrative-law journals.

Of course, that isn't a storyline likely to sell newspapers. Hence, the general media spin about the case has been that, as Reuters put it, the Supremes issued a "stinging rebuke" to the administration and endorsed the assisted suicide as a legitimate public policy. But this isn't true. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority decision even acknowledged that the Justice Department was "reasonable" in its assertion that "medicine's boundaries" preclude assisted suicide. The majority also explicitly agreed that the federal government possesses the inherent power to prevent narcotics from being prescribed for assisted suicide, for example, by amending the federal Controlled Substances Act. The case provided neither a sweeping assertion of the validity of assisted suicide nor a ringing endorsement of its legality being strictly a matter of state's rights.

Read the entire article on the National Review website (new window will open).

Posted: 18-Jan-06



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