Thursday, February 2, 2017
Since 2006, the United States Supreme Court has not taken a case regarding “death with dignity” legislation—state laws that allow terminally ill individuals to end their lives with the help of a physician. Specifically, 2006 was the year that the Court handed a victory to proponents of assisted suicide by preventing the attorney general from barring Oregon doctors facilitating such actions. Now, the Supreme Court might get its chance to resolve the debate further with President Trump’s new nominee to the Court—Neil Gorsuch, who has cultivated an expertise in assisted suicide throughout his legal career.
When he was nominated to the federal bench in 2006, Gorsuch released his book titled “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” which details an overview of the ethical and legal debate surrounding assisted suicide. In his book, Gorsuch reveals that he is firmly opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia because of his belief in an “inviolability” of human life—all human beings are intrinsically valuable, and the intentional taking of life is always wrong. In conclusion, his book envisions a legal system that allows terminally ill patients to refuse life-extending treatments, just stopping short of permitting intentional killing. Accordingly, if Gorsuch is confirmed, he will likely have the opportunity to hear legal challenges to these death with dignity statutes.
See Derek Hawkins, Neil Gorsuch Wrote the Book on Assisted Suicide. Here’s What He Said., Wash. Post, February 1, 2017.
Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) & Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.