LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Heller Ehrman Represented Terminally-Ill Oregon Patients In A Victory That Will Impact State Rights
On January 17, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of upholding physician-assisted dying in the state of Oregon. The federal government tried to prohibit Oregon health care providers from complying with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which gives terminally-ill patients the choice of physician-assisted dying along with numerous safeguards. The lower courts enjoined former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s November 2001 Directive, and the Supreme Court today affirmed, holding that the Attorney General does not have the authority to effect a “radical shift” in the balance of state-federal power. Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority that included Justices O’Connor, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Chief Justice Roberts joined Justices Scalia and Thomas in dissenting.
“Today, the Court upheld the right of terminally-ill patients like our clients to make end of life decisions in privacy and with dignity. It reaffirmed the traditional state-federal balance of power, specifically upholding Oregon’s physician-assisted dying law as a regulation of medicine. By noting that former Attorney General Ashcroft’s view of physician-assisted dying is but “one reasonable understanding of medical practice,” the Court made clear that Oregon’s view also is reasonable. Indeed, most Americans cherish liberty, privacy and dignity at the end of life.” — Nico van Aelstyn, Heller Ehrman LLP
WHO: Attorney Nico van Aelstyn
Nico van Aelstyn has represented a group of terminally-ill patients in this case since 2001. 16 patients have participated in the case; four are still with us.