18 January 2006

USSC Gonzalez v. Oregon

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Oregon's famous law allowing physician-assisted suicide (the only such law in the country). As the Opinion of Justice Kennedy acknowledges, allthough the dispute in the case is in part a product of a wider political and moral debate, the Court's decision ultimately rests more on "an inquiry familiar to the courts: interpreting a federal statute to determine whether Executive action is authorized by, or otherwise consistent with, the enactment." In the end, therefore, the Judgment provides perhaps more insights to questions of federalism and separation of powers, than on the background fundamental ethical issues involved.

Nevertheless, here are a few links for further study of the issues from a comparative perspective. Professor Valerie J. Vollmar of Willamette School of Law has a Physician-Assisted Suicide Website, with information on legislation, litigation and literature from around the world. Samia Hurst and Alex Mauron have an online article in the British Medical Journal (2003) on "Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Switzerland: allowing a role for non-physicians", in which you will find many references to further materials. The Transatlantic Assembly weblog earlier referred to this collection of materials for the Oregon case (briefs etc.), compiled by the International Taskforce on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Finally, for Europe, the seminal decision is obviously the judgment of the ECHR in the case of Pretty v. United Kingdom.

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