Not since 2006 has the Supreme Court taken up a case involving “death with dignity” legislation — the handful of state laws that allow people to end their lives with the help of a physician. That year, the court handed a victory to death with dignity advocates, ruling that the attorney general could not bar doctors in Oregon — the first state to pass such a law — from giving terminally ill patients drugs to facilitate suicide.
It was only the third time the court had heard a case challenging such statues, and the six-member majority tread lightly, recognizing the sensitivity of the issue.
“Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate,” the majority wrote, quoting from a previous opinion, “about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide.”
That debate is far from resolved today — and it’s one Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to the high court, will surely be eager to weigh in on, should he win confirmation.
Gorsuch, a 49-year-old federal appeals court judge from Colorado, was tapped by Trump on Tuesday to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year after three decades on the Supreme Court. Aside from his bona fides as a lawyer and a jurist — which may all but guarantee a favorable vote in the Senate — Gorsuch has cultivated something of an expertise in assisted suicide and euthanasia in his legal career.
In 2006, the year he was nominated to the federal bench, he released a heavily-researched book on the subject titled “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” The front cover looks almost like a Tom Clancy novel, with purple all-caps block text set against a black background. But the book itself is a deep, highly cerebral overview of the ethical and legal debate surrounding the practices.
In it, Gorsuch reveals that he firmly opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, and argues against death with dignity laws, which currently exist in just five states. His reasons, he writes, are rooted in his belief in an “inviolability” of human life.
“All human beings are intrinsically valuable,” he writes in the book, “and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”Read More...
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