Gonzales v. Oregon

The Supreme Court debate whether physician-assisted suicide violates the Controlled substance Act of 1970.

In 1994, Oregon was the first state to enact the Death with Dignity Act allowing physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to those who are predicted to die within the next six months due to a severe illness. In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft felt that euthanasia was a violation of the Controlled Substance act of 1970 (CSA) and wanted to take away any physician's license who assisted a patient in suicide. Oregon sued and challenged Ashcroft's ruling in the Federal District Court. The Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit both deemed his directive illegal. The Supreme Court decided to hear the case and after a 6-3 opinion they came to the conclusion that congress intended the CSA to prevent physicians from dealing illegal drugs. The Death with dignity Act allows euthanasia to coexist with the Controlled Substances Act legally. Therefore, John Ashcroft was not able to inhibit physician-assisted suicide in Oregon.

1970-10-27 00:00:00

Controlled Substance Act of 1970

The Controlled Substance Act was enacted on October 27, 1970 by President Richard Nixon to regulate possession, manufacturing, importation, and distribution of controlled substances (drugs). The substances are classified into 5 schedules which go from schedule 1, (the most harmful drugs with no medical benefits) to schedule 5 (drugs we normal use to treat the common cold or headaches).

1994-01-01 00:00:00

The People Vote on the Death with Dignity Act

51.3% of Oregon voters are for the act and 48.7% are against it.

1997-01-26 00:00:00

Washington v. Glucksberg

Right before the Death with Dignity Act was passed in Oregon there was another Supreme Court case called the Washington v. Glucksberg that was about physician-assisted suicide. A physician named Harold Glucksberg decided to challenge Washington's ban on physician-assisted suicide and won.

1997-10-27 00:00:00

Death With Dignity Act

Oregon was the first state to pass the Death with Dignity Act allowing physician-assisted suicides to become legal (with certain requirements to be met).

1997-10-27 00:00:00

Legal Physician-Assisted Suicide's in Oregon

There has been a total of 752 physician-assisted deaths since the passing of the Death With Dignity Act in 1997 all the way until 2013.

1997-11-01 00:00:00

Trying to Repeal the Death with Dignity Act

A referral by the Oregon Legislative assembly was directing towards repealing the Death with Dignity Act but was defeated by the voters.

2001-01-09 00:00:00

John Ashcroft's Interpretive Rule

Attorney General John Ashcroft created an Interpretive Rule stating that physician-assisted suicides were a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

2001-11-06 00:00:00

What Started the Case

Ashcroft issued a directive stating a physician could lose his license if found prescribing medication for assisted-suicide.

2002-03-01 00:00:00

Federal District Court

The Federal District Court gives the Gonzales v. Oregon case a full hearing declaring that Ashcroft did not have the right to override the Death with Dignity Act.

2003-05-07 00:00:00

Ninth Circuit

The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on May 7, 2003 and on May 26, 2003 the Circuit decided Ashcroft did not have the authority to give the directive stating physician-assisted suicide was illegal.

2004-11-09 00:00:00

Out with the Old and in with the New

John Ashcroft filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court and declared retirement from the Department of Justice. John Ashcroft's successor, Alberto Gonzales, becomes the new Attorney General and takes over the Gonzales v. Oregon case (hence the name).

2005-02-22 00:00:00

Cert Granted

Gonzales v. Oregon was granted cert from the Supreme Court on February 22, 2005.

2005-10-05 00:00:00

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case of physician-assisted suicides Gonzales v. Oregon.

2006-01-17 00:00:00

The Decision

The Supreme Court reached a final decision on January 17, 2006 in a 6-3 opinion. The Supreme Court came to the conclusion that physician-assisted suicide was not a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and would not give the Attorney General authority to create an Interpretive Rule declaring physician-assisted suicide illegal. They came to this decision despite one of the dissents coming from the Chief Justice John Roberts.

2006-02-06 00:00:00

The Aftermath of Gonzales v. Oregon

After the Gonzales v. Oregon case three more states have made physician-assisted suicide legal: Vermont, Montana, and Washington.

Gonzales v. Oregon

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