Gorsuch on Opposing Assisted Suicide: ‘I Might Be Right and I Might Be Wrong’

(CNSNews.com) – At the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Sen. John Kennedy (R.-La..) asked Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch about the argument Gorsuch made in a book he published in 2006 in opposition to legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

In response to Kennedy, Gorsuch said on the question of whether a state should legalize assisted suicide: “It’s a question we all have to face. You legalize it or don’t you. It’s a hard question.”

Kennedy followed up: “If you legalize it, it cheapens life, doesn’t it?

Here is their exchange:

Sen. John Kennedy (R.-La.): Let me ask you about euthanasia. I didn’t read your whole book.

Judge Neil Gorsuch: I don’t think many people have, senator.

Kennedy: But I read enough about it. And I read a little bit of it. I believe you’re an Episcopalian?

Gorsuch: I attend an Episcopal church in Boulder with my family, senator.

Kennedy: I’m a Methodist. I was a Presbyterian and Becky and I got married. She was Methodist, I was a Presbyterian. We compromised and I became a Methodist.

Gorsuch: That’s the way it works.

Kennedy: But as I understand your thesis about euthanasia, which you proposed, it’s not really based on religious teachings. It’s based on secular moral thinking. Tell me about that: That euthanasia–I mean–from one perspective, you know, if we have the right to control our bodies, if we have autonomy, privacy and disclosure privacy and all that, you know, this idea of self-determination. But you believe it can lead to something worse. Is that your thesis?

Gorsuch: Well, senator, this was in my capacity as a commentator before I became a judge.

Kennedy: Sure.

Gorsuch: And as a student.

Kennedy: Right.

Gorsuch: And when I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to study law and a doctorate–and I know you’ve spent some time thinking about similar things in a similar place–it struck me as an important, unresolved legal issue that deserves some thinking and a contribution where I could study and maybe, maybe, add something to the discussion. Not that I have any great insights or perfect answers in this area. It’s hard.

Kennedy: I don’t believe anybody does.

Gorsuch: It’s hard. I agree. I agree with that, sir.

And there, I expressed the belief that–the conclusion, as a commentator–that the right to refuse treatment recognized in Cruzan by the United States Supreme Court was appropriate. People should be allowed to refuse treatment, go home, die in the arms of their family rather than being poked and prodded.

At the same time, I agreed with the Supreme Court as well that the right of, question, of assisted suicide was primarily a state responsibility. And that’s where Glucksberg and Quill, the Supreme Court has left the issue.

Then the question becomes what do you do? It’s a question we all have to face. You legalize it or don’t you. It’s a hard question.

Kennedy: If you legalize it, it cheapens life, doesn’t it?

Gorsuch: Senator, what I worried about is the least amongst us in those circumstances.

Kennedy: The unprotected?

Gorsuch: My concern is that when you have a cheap option, and expensive option, people who can’t afford the expensive option, they’re the ones who tend to get hurt. The disabled, the elderly, the weak, minorities.

Kennedy: Yeah.

Gorsuch: So, those were my concerns. I might be right and I might be wrong. History will tell. And if I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, yelling and screaming about it won’t make me any better at it. It won’t make me right.

It was a contribution, part of a debate, part of a discussion. And I hope it was a respectful and useful contribution that at least one senator has read. And otherwise, and up until about a month ago, I think primarily occupied a very dusty bookshelf somewhere in a law library.

Kennedy: Do you prefer wet flies or dry?

Gorsuch: Dry.

Kennedy: Dry. I do, too.

Gorsuch: Happy to express my view on that.

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