[JURIST] On the last day it could file an appeal, the US Department of Justice has asked the US Supreme Court to block the Oregon Death With Dignity Act which allows doctors to help terminally ill patients die more quickly. The appeal has been expected since May, when the US Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled that federal officials do not have the power to punish health professionals in Oregon in contravention of Oregon law. Read the full Ninth Circuit opinion here and a summary here [PDF]. More than 170 people have used the Oregon law to end their lives. The government argues that assisted suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" and that doctors take an oath to heal patients, not to help them die. The Supreme Court will most likely decide whether it will hear the case early next year. The Court heard a right-to-die case in 1997 holding that while Americans have no constitutional right to assisted suicide, it is up to the states to decide the issue for themselves without federal interference. AP has more.