Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch on Physician-Assisted Suicide, Obamacare, and the Death Penalty

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Neil Gorsuch
Source: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, “Neil Gorsuch 10th Circuit,” (accessed Feb. 7, 2017)

US Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has expressed views and made judicial decisions about controversial issues such as physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, Obamacare, and the death penalty.

In 2006, prior to his confirmation as federal appellate judge, Gorsuch published The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in which he argues against physician-assisted suicide laws and says that bans against both assisted suicide and euthanasia should be maintained. In the book, which expands on his 2004 University of Oxford dissertation, he argues that the United States should keep existing laws banning physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia because “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” On the use of “private persons,” Gorsuch explains, “I do not seek to address publicly authorized forms of killing like capital punishment and war.” Abortion critics believe that, although Gorsuch has not ruled on an abortion-related case, his views will align with conservatives because of his opinions on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in six states, euthanasia is illegal nationwide, and abortion is legal throughout the country.

Gorsuch heard at least two cases related to Obamacare while on the Tenth Circuit bench: Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius (2013) and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell (2015). Both cases concerned whether the Obamacare rule providing free birth control violated the establishment of religion and right to free exercise clauses of the Constitution. Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters; both decisions would be echoed by the Supreme Court (2014 and 2016 respectively).

According to ScotusBlog author Eric Citron and other legal experts, in terms of the death penalty, Gorsuch had tended to rule against those seeking to have their death penalty sentences reduced or overturned. The death penalty is legal in 32 states and is used federally.

On Jan. 31, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Federal Appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016. Gorsuch, if confirmed, will be the youngest member of the current bench at 49 years old (Elena Kagan is currently the youngest at 56). Gorsuch graduated from Columbia University (BA), Harvard University (JD), and the University of Oxford (DPhil).

He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Bryron R. White before entering private law practice in 1995. Confirmed by voice vote (meaning there were no objections to his confirmation), Gorsuch was nominated to the Tenth Circuit Court in Colorado in 2006 by George W. Bush. Legal experts believe Gorsuch’s opinions will fall in line with the conservative wing of the court, as Scalia’s did.


Eric Citron, “Potential Nominee Profile: Neil Gorsuch,”, Jan. 13, 2017

Lev Facher, “Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Is Deeply Opposed to Assisted Suicide,”, Feb. 4, 2017

Alex Gladu, “Will Neil Gorsuch Be the Youngest Supreme Court Justice?,”, Jan. 31, 2017

Shane Goldmacher, Josh Gerstein, and Matthew Nussbaum, “Trump Picks Gorsuch for Supreme Court,”, Jan. 31, 2017

Neil M. Gorsuch, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, 2006

Neil M. Gorsuch, “The Right to Receive Assistance in Suicide and Euthanasia, with Particular Reference to the Law of the United States,” University of Oxford, 2004

Carrie Johnson, “Who Is Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s First Pick for the Supreme Court,”, Jan. 31, 2017

Dylan Matthews, “I Read Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch’s Book. It’s Very Revealing.,”, Feb. 4, 2017

Nina Totenberg, “Here’s What We Know about Neil Gorsuch,”, Feb. 5, 2017