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Sen. Coons questions Gorsuch on assisted suicide and religious freedom

Delaware Public Media

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) was among those grilling Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Capitol Hill Tuesday .

Delaware's junior senator and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Gorsuch for about 30 minutes.

One issue he tackled was 49-year-old federal appeals judge's stance on physician-assisted suicide, which Gorsuch wrote a book about in 2006. Gorsuch says he wrote The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia as a commentator – not a judge.  He added he sees good arguments on both sides of the debate, but has concerns about the impact legalizing physician-assisted suicide might have, particularly on disabled and elderly people who might be pressured into that option in the face of the cost continuing care.

Coons pushed further, asking Gorsuch for his views on how he interprets previously decided cases on the issue:

Coons: In the Glucksburg case, which is about physician-assisted suicide, Justice Stevens said in his concurrence that avoiding intolerable pain and the indignity of living one’s final days incapacitated and in agony is certainly at the heart of the liberty of defining one’s own concept of existence, citing the Casey decision. What’s your view of the application of Casey’s ‘mystery of human life’ language here?
Gorsuch: Senator, The Supreme Court in Glucksburg – the majority held that this issue is for the states to decide and the people to decide. The people of Oregon made their decision to legalize it, for example. It was just legalized in November in my home state of Colorado. That’s their right.
Coons: And how did you feel about that?
Gorsuch: Senator, my personal views have nothing to do with my job as a judge.”

Coons also probed Gorsuch issue surrounding the free exercise of religion and individual liberties – specifically related to the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision.

The Gorsuch hearing is expected to conclude today.

You can see Sen. Coons' entire Q&A with Judge Gorsuch below:

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.