The Oregon Death with Dignity Act was enacted in 1994 by the State of Oregon to allow physicians to aid terminally ill patients who wished to end their lives in a controlled manner. In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued an Interpretive Rule stating that prescribing a controlled substance for the purpose of physician-assisted suicide would not qualify as a requisite "legitimate medical purpose" under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and that any physician who prescribed a controlled substance for the purpose of ending a patient's life faced deregistration. In Gonzales v. Oregon, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Attorney General's Interpretive Rule was invalid because it was outside of the scope of his authority delegated by Congress. Because the issue of physician-assisted suicide is one that generates so much controversy, this case has received a large amount of publicity and comment from many spheres of public life. However, neither the Court nor the dissent spent much time discussing the issue of physician-assisted suicide, and instead, both of the opinions based their arguments in the framework of administrative law. Within this structure, two competing jurisprudential philosophies collide; as a result, Gonzales v. Oregon offers insight into how such disputes will be debated and resolved in the foreseeable future. This note examines the Court's decision, the accompanying jurisprudential doctrines, and the potential ramifications of both this ruling and Justice Scalia's dissent in light of an ongoing debate regarding physician-assisted suicide and the scope of agency rulemaking authority.
Alfred J. Ludwig,
Authority with the Force of Law: Statutory Interpretation as Policymaking in Gonzales v. Oregon,
71 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol71/iss4/15