WASHINGTON (January 17, 2006) – An official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commented today on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision regarding use of federally controlled drugs for assisted suicide.
Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, explained that the Court has ruled only that "Congress has not delegated to the U.S. attorney general" the authority to prevent such misuse of federally controlled drugs. "This by no means settles the legal or moral issues regarding assisted suicide," he said, "but only changes the forum in which these must be addressed."
The text of his statement follows.
"Today the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has not delegated to the U.S. attorney general the authority to prevent federally controlled drugs from being used for physician-assisted suicide. This by no means settles the legal or moral issues regarding assisted suicide, but only changes the forum in which these must be addressed.
"In 1997 the Supreme Court unanimously upheld state laws against physician-assisted suicide as constitutionally valid. It has not yet addressed the question whether Oregon's law, allowing physician-assisted suicide for certain vulnerable persons, violates constitutional guarantees such as equal protection under law; one federal court answered that question in the affirmative, but its ruling was overturned on procedural grounds by an appellate court.
"As the Catholic bishops' conference of the United States said in 1991: 'To destroy the boundary between healing and killing would mark a radical departure from longstanding legal and medical traditions of our country, posing a threat of unforeseeable magnitude to vulnerable members of our society.' In no sense can assisting a suicide be called a 'legitimate medical purpose' for any drug. Congress now has an obligation to reaffirm that fact."