Judge Extends Order Blocking Federal Government Action Against Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law
A federal judge yesterday extended for at least four months a restraining order against the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to overturn Oregon's assisted suicide law, the New York Times reports. U.S. District Judge Robert Jones' ruling nullifies a directive issued on Nov. 6 by Attorney General John Ashcroft allowing Drug Enforcement Administration officers to "act against" doctors who prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill people (New York Times, 11/21). Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers (D) on Nov. 7 filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the federal government from blocking the law (California Healthline, 11/8). Jones on Nov. 8 granted a temporary restraining order, which expired on Nov. 20, against the federal directive. Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, the only law of its kind in the nation, allows doctors to prescribe, but not administer, lethal drugs to a terminally ill patient after two physicians agree that the patient has less than six months to live, has chosen to die voluntarily and is capable of making health care decisions (California Healthline, 11/9). Jones ruled on Nov. 20 that Oregon's case against the federal government would move directly to trial, "in effect skipping the preliminary injunction hearing process." The judge directed Oregon and lawyers representing terminally ill patients to file motions for summary judgement within 60 days. The federal government would have one month to respond, and the state would then have an additional 14 days to reply. After that, Jones said he "expected a swift hearing" and a decision within 30 days (New York Times, 11/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.