News Release: Bishops' Official Applauds Justice Department Appeal of Oregon Assisted Suicide Case

November 10, 2004


WASHINGTON—A spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops praised Attorney General John Ashcroft’s petition to the Supreme Court in the Oregon assisted suicide case.  The petition asks for a reversal of the 9th Circuit Appeals Court ruling which approved Oregon's use of federally controlled drugs to assist suicides.  
     "Suicide among the elderly and those suffering from serious illness or disability is not a ‘medical practice’ but a tragic public health problem deserving a thoughtful, caring response,” said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq. "We applaud the Justice Department's vigorous defense of the law, which protects the integrity of the medical profession and especially patients whose lives are most vulnerable."
    The Ashcroft directive reversed a previous Clinton Administration decision to allow Oregon doctors to exempt themselves from federal law and prescribe lethal doses of federally controlled substances.  It restores the uniform enforcement of the longstanding federal Controlled Substances Act, and clarifies that aggressive pain management is legitimate medical care even where it unintentionally increases the likelihood of a patient's death.  
    "Federally controlled drugs should be used to heal and comfort patients, not to kill them," Ruse said.  "No patient must ever be made to feel that her life is expendable."