X-Message-Number: 8353
Date: Sat, 28 Jun 1997 13:58:21 -0700
From: David Brandt-Erichsen <>
Subject: Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court decision against the right-to-die has been widely
reported as leaving the matter up to the states.  However, the decision
itself does not say this.  The closest thing it says is:

"Throughout the Nation, Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound
debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician assisted
suicide. Our holding permits this debate to continue, as it should in a
democratic society."

The entire decision can be found at:

The decision is a poor one for two reasons (besides the fact that liberty
was not expanded):  (1) The Court bought all the arguments against
physician-assisted suicide and used them to justify the states having
authority to outlaw it.  This will make it more difficult to get
legislators to change the law.  (2) There was no statement that states
could legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Although the latter was not the subject of the cases and did not need to be
addressed, the fact that it was not addressed will prolong the whole
process.  The thing to watch now is the Oregon case, which is still on hold
while being appealed to the Supreme Court.  The Ninth Circuit has upheld
the Oregon law, and if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal, it
will, by that act, uphold the right of states to legalize
physician-assisted suicide.  There is no timetable, as yet, on when the
Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear this case.

The subject is further complicated by the fact that the Oregon legislature
had voted to send the law back to the voters in November.  The Court may
consider the appeal moot in this circumstance, because the "old" law is no
longer relevant, and if the "new" identical law passes again we may have to
go through this all over again from ground zero!

Incidentally, the news reports have not indicated that it is not yet a
certainty that the Oregon law will go back to the voters in November.  It
is certain that the legislature has voted to do so, and that the governor
cannot veto this vote.  However, the legislature has not authorized the
funds to hold the election, and there seems to be some difficulty in doing
so.  Also, the governor does have the power to veto those funds.

The other case to watch is the Hall case before the Florida Supreme Court.
A decision on this was expected a couple of weeks ago but was delayed.  It
is now expected "any day now."  This case is based on the Florida
Constitution and so is not affected by the U.S. Supreme Court Decision.

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