Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pressed Gorsuch on the matter on Wednesday, citing California's End of Life Option Act that legalized the procedure in the state.
"I, in my life, have seen people die horrible deaths – family, of cancer – when there was no hope. And my father, begging me, 'stop this Diane, I'm dying'," she explained. "And my father was a professor of surgery."
"And the suffering becomes so pronounced – I just went through this with a close friend – that this is real. And it's very hard," she continued, asking him what he thought of California's law.
Gorsuch, speaking in his personal capacity, said that for some terminal patients, "at some point, you want to be left alone. Enough with the poking and the prodding. 'I want to go home and die in my own bed in the arms of my family'."
"And the Supreme Court recognized in Cruzan" – a 1990 decision on an end-of-life case – "that that's a right in common law, to be free from assault and battery, effectively. And assumed that there was a Constitutional dimension to that. I agree."
Gorsuch added that the matter of a terminal, suffering patient foregoing treatment was a personal one for him.
"Your father, we've all been through it with family. My heart goes out to you. It does. And I've been there with my dad. And others," he told Feinstein.
Speaking as an ethicist, Furton clarified that in end-of-life cases, pain management may certainly be used but should never be an overdose and should not render the patient unconscious except in extraordinary circumstances.
Pain medication should be "measured, so that it matches the pain that the patient is experiencing," he said.
"You can't just give them a massive dose, or something like that," he said, as "it would bring about their death in a way that was not measured and not connected to a proper intention which is to alleviate the pain."
And medication should not induce unconsciousness, except in extraordinary cases, he insisted.
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"Another important element is that the loss of consciousness in a person who is dying is very significant, and shouldn't happen unless it's absolutely necessary, because we should meet our Maker alert and in a prayerful way," he added.
Furton praised Gorsuch's knowledge and treatment of the matter as someone who "has obviously thought about these issues very carefully."
"So I think we should be happy that he has such a strong sense of where to draw the line in a case such as this, where you've got a person with intractable pain and needs to have it remedied," Furton said.
"He understands that that is not intentionally killing somebody. It's not euthanasia, it's not physician-assisted suicide. A lot of people don't understand the difference between those two, so it's good that he does because he's obviously going to be a man of considerable power and importance in the area of law."
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.