National Committee for a Human Life Amendment

Assisted Suicide

On June 5, 1998, U.S. attorney general Janet Reno announced that the federal Controlled Substances Act establishes no uniform national policy against the use of federally regulated drugs for assisted suicide, allowing these drugs to be used to assist patients' suicides in any state that, like Oregon, allows the practice under state law.

This ruling disregarded current federal law that prohibits any use of these drugs to endanger ‘public health and safety’ (21 USC 823) or for anything other than a ‘legitimate medical purpose’ (21 CFR 1306.04). On November 6, 2001, U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft reversed the Reno ruling. On April 17, 2002, the Ashcroft ruling was permanently enjoined in federal court. That ruling was appealed; oral arguments were heard May 7, 2003. On May 26, 2004, the Appeals court ruled that in issuing his directive Attorney General Ashcroft exceeded his authority and that the injunction by Judge Jones be continued in force. On July 12, 2004, the federal government appealed this ruling. Efforts to pass federal legislation against assisted suicide and in support of legitimate pain relief protocols have not yet been successful.