Oregon versus ashcroft: Pain relief, physician-assisted suicide, and the controlled substances act

Ben A Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective. Late in 2001, the State of Oregon filed suit against Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking to half recent directive that physicians who comply with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act by writing a lethal prescription for a controlled substance should be prosecuted for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This special article reviews the history of the series of challenges to the Oregon Act since its initial adoption in 1994, with particular consideration of the arguments on both sides of Oregon v. Ashcroft and the disposition of the case by the district court. Design. The article utilizes an historical review of the Oregon Act, including legal and political challenges to it, as well as discussion of the 3 years of data on the experience with legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, and analysis of the legal issues in the current litigation. Conclusions. The federal district court concluded that the Attorney General's interpretation of certain provisions of the CSA so as to preclude the writing of a lethal prescription where otherwise permitted by state law as a legitimate medical practice was inconsistent with the CSA and, therefore, beyond the scope of his authority. The Oregon Act will continue in force while the Attorney General's appeal of the district court ruling is considered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-360
Number of pages8
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Controlled substances
  • Oregon death with dignity act
  • Pain relief promotion act
  • Physician-assisted suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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