Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, is deeply interested in matters of life and death. His most lasting legacy from his time on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius, a case about religious objections to the rules on birth-control coverage in the Affordable Care Act, which later became a landmark Supreme Court decision. But he hasn’t confined his writing to briefs and rulings. In 2006—the year he joined the Tenth Circuit—he published a book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, outlining the moral, legal, and logistical challenges that emerge at the end of life.
The most remarkable thing about the book is its measuredness. Gorsuch is a Jesuit-educated Episcopalian, but he does not rely on theology to make his argument. In fact, he takes pains to ground his work in “secular moral theory,” laying out a careful case based on the writings of thinkers from Aquinas and Epicurus to contemporary scholars Peter Singer and Ronald Dworkin. His work reads more like a philosophy paper than a legal brief, which is appropriate given his background: He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford.
Gorsuch reveals a few interesting lines of thinking in his book. First, it’s clear that he’s deeply interested in fundamental moral principles. The common wisdom around his nomination is that he’s an originalist, reading laws and the Constitution based on their authors’ intended meaning. During his nomination announcement, he emphasized this principle: “I respect … the fact that in our legal order it is for Congress and not the courts to write new laws,” Gorsuch said. “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives.”