By now most of you have heard that by a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has upheld Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, preserving the electorally determined right of Oregonians to end their own lives with proper medical assistance. The adventurous may peruse the opinions here (pdf); the rest of you can read the traditional media version any number of places (I chose Reuters).
I'm definitely pleased with the result, and also relieved to discover that angst about when Alito might be confirmed was unfounded. Even if he'd been on the Court already, Kennedy would still have cast the deciding majority vote. Several thinkers have already posited the idea that Kennedy is now the new O'Connor, and while he has been fairly consistently rightward of O'Connor on many issues, you can never tell how he might view himself now that he's truly the powerbroker in the middle.
As I noted, there was some concern about whether Alito's confirmation would cause a rehearing of the case before the opinions could be released. In the course of investigating that concept, I spoke at length with George Eighmey, Executive Director of Compassion and Choices of Oregon. He graciously responded this morning with a statement on the ruling:
The US Supreme Court ruled today in favor of choice at the end of life. In a 6 to 3 decision, the court ruled the [previous] Attorney General’s attempt to intervene in affairs of the state’s aid-in-dying law has exceeded his authority.
"This is a victory for all Oregonians and in many ways for all citizens in the US," said George Eighmey, executive director of Compassion & Choices of Oregon. Eighmey said "this decision means Americans can live and die as free people, in dignity and according to their own values."
For now Oregon’s aid-in-dying law is safe, terminally ill patients, their families, physicians and pharmacist have no fear of persecution or prosecution from the federal government. But Compassion & Choices of Oregon will continue to defend attempts by Congress to overturn our law.
Good show. For another home-state angle on the ruling and how it fits into national concerns, BlueOregon reminds us that Senator Ron Wyden voted for Chief Justice Roberts, who formed one-third of the dissenting coalition on Gonzales v Oregon--apparently in part on this basis:
Supreme Court nominee John Roberts declared that, in cases dealing with end-of-life care, he would "start with the supposition that one has the right to be left alone," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said after the two met for an hour Tuesday. ...
Roberts told Wyden that he would look closely at the legislative history of federal laws and would be careful not to strip states of powers they traditionally have held -- such as regulating the practice of medicine, Wyden said.
"You don't get the impression from how he answered that he'd let somebody stretch a sweeping statute like the Controlled Substances Act," Wyden said. ...
Roberts said the basic genius of the federal system is that it affords states the ability to approach problems in a way that is best suited to their different needs; imposing uniformity across the nation would stifle the intent of the founding fathers, Wyden said.
That was from back in August. Kari doesn't go much beyond floating the theorem that Wyden was misled, but I'd like to ask the Senator's office what their reaction is to Roberts' vote. I'll let you know what it is, if they're responsive. One can only hope that as Wyden deliberates another floor vote on a SCOTUS nominee, staffers have removed all songs on the Senator's iPod except "Won't Get Fooled Again."