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The purpose of the Controlled Substances Act is to limit the potential of drug abuse.[1] The term drug abuse applies to the abuse of both legal and illegal drugs, as well as the instances of prescriptions without a justified reason.[2] Due to the fact that individual states are able to determine what is considered a valid medical cause, some procedures, such as assisted suicide, maybe open for interpretation.[3] It is important to note that the Attorney General is able to make specific changes to the roster of Controlled Substances, provided the Attorney General follows a specific guideline.[4] One of the caveats is that the Attorney General follows the findings of the Secretary of Health and Human Services when any medical or scientific assessment is conducted.[5]

The question before the Court is whether the Attorney General, through the Controlled Substances Act, can prohibit drugs from being prescribed to use in an assisted suicide.[6]

It is important to note that the Schedule of Drugs categorizes specific drugs based on their usefulness in treating medical conditions and the dangers or chance of addiction.[7] For example, a Schedule 1 drug would have high addiction and no accepted medical use whereas a Schedule 2 has high addiction but accepted medical use.[8]

Based on the presented foundation, the Court explored the Controlled Substances Act, as well as the Oregon Law[9] which allows for the use of controlled substances in assisted suicides. The Court found that the Attorney General cannot prohibit the use of drugs from being prescribed in assisted suicide.

One of the main factors in deciding this case was the fact that the Court acknowledged a State has the ability to determine what is considered an acceptable medical use.[10] Additionally, the Court determined that in enacting the Controlled Substance Act, Congress sought to limit the ability of doctors from engaging in in illegal drug trafficking; not to determine or define what constitutes acceptable medical use.[11]

I believe this is the correct assessment since the Attorney General was trying to define what is considered an acceptable medical process, and not seeking to change the schedule of a drug, which is within the purview of the Controlled Substance Act. For example, should hypothetical “Drug A” be classified under a Schedule 1 drug, but a medical breakthrough determines “Drug A” can be utilized to treat a specific condition, then the Attorney General can reschedule “Drug A.” Conversely, if “Drug B” is a schedule 4 drug, but any medical benefit is disproven and the drug is highly addictive, then the Attorney General can re-classify “Drug B” as a Schedule 1 drug. Both of these hypotheticals assume that the Attorney General followed the five step process listed in the Controlled Substances Act.[12]

Further, the Controlled Substances Act does not discuss the practice of medicine and what constitutes an acceptable medical procedure.[13] Additionally, the Controlled Substance Act specifically acknowledges States rights, as they pertain to formulating and determining what constitutes acceptable medical procedures.[14] These two points were addressed in the Opinion of the Court as important factors in the Court’s decision.[15]

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