A federal appeals court on Monday blocked Oregon’s law on doctor-assisted suicide from taking effect while opponents prepare their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law, approved by state voters in 1994, allows Oregon residents to ask for suicide medication if their doctors determine they have less than six months to live. A second doctor must decide that the patient is mentally competent and not suffering from depression, and the request must be renewed orally and in writing.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 27 that the law could be enforced and that a lawsuit by doctors and a terminally ill patient was premature. Without deciding whether the law provided adequate protections for patients, the court said enforcement would pose no immediate threat to the rights of the doctors or the patient who filed the suit.
The law, blocked earlier by a federal judge, has remained on hold. On Monday, Judge Melvin Brunetti, who wrote the appeals court’s 3-0 ruling in February, signed an order granting opponents’ request for a further delay until they seek Supreme Court review. At that point, a stay would be up to the high court.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide by early July whether terminally ill patients have a constitutional right to physician assistance in suicide.
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