U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Assisted Suicide

Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Assisted Suicide

Committee for Pro-Life Activities
National Conference of Catholic Bishops


June 26, 1997

The Supreme Court displayed wisdom and restraint today by upholding state laws that protect terminally ill patients from those who would offer to "assist" their suicides. The Court's ruling is consonant with two centuries of legal tradition, and over twenty centuries of moral wisdom recognizing that healers must not be agents of death.

This decision also respects the wisdom of recent decisions by the American people and their elected representatives to protect life. Notwithstanding exaggerated claims of public support for assisted suicide, proponents resorted to the federal courts precisely because they have generally failed in the more democratic branches of our government. While one state, Oregon, has approved a measure allowing physician-assisted suicide, it is reconsidering the issue. All other states have refused to follow Oregon's lead, and several have passed new laws against assisted suicide; Congress has acted to ensure that the practice is not performed or subsidized in federal health programs.

People on both sides of this controversy should respond to the Court's ruling by working together to solve the real problems of terminally ill patients and their families. In saying "no" to assisted suicide, our society should say "yes" to the care and support that show true compassion while respecting each person's inherent human dignity.