John Ashcroft's Parting Shot
Lame duck Attorney General John Ashcroft is again trying to overturn Oregon’s assisted suicide law (officially known as the Death With Dignity Act). This law was passed overwhelmingly by Oregon’s voters. Several times, Ashcroft has tried to have the will of Oregon’s voters overturned in court. He has been overruled every time, but like a cat that keeps jumping up on the table no matter how many times you throw him down, Ashcroft is yet again challenging Oregon’s referendum. This time he’s taking it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Probably the Republicans’ two most famous slogans are “limited government” and “states’ rights.” And of course there’s that quaint concept of separation of church and state. Meanwhile the Federal Church of the Almighty Government is being called in to squelch Oregon’s voters’ right to pass a referendum. So which is it? "Limited government" or "Big Brother Knows Best"? "States' rights" or the will of a state's voters being squelched at the whim of an unelected federal government official? Are these schizophrenic conservatives aware of their multiple personalities?
When state voters (and Oregon was one of them) pass an anti-gay-marriage law, conservatives are screaming from the rooftops “The People have spoken!” When The People vote in favor of medical marijuana or assisted suicide, these same conservatives suddenly all go deaf and get laryngitis at the same time.
In a 1997 decision, the Supreme Court did not recognize a constitutional right to assisted dying, but encouraged national debate and legislative action at the state level.
Under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, a doctor can prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient of sound mind who makes the request in writing. A second doctor must evaluate the patient, who must be notified of alternatives, including hospice care. The request must be repeated after 15 days. Whatever someone thinks about the pros and cons of this issue, the people of Oregon have made their preference known; their will should be honored. Ashcroft has been obsessed with this law since the day he took office.
An insurance company that denies medical care to a patient, and an attorney general who tries to prevent a doctor from carrying out a patient’s request, have one thing in common: they are both practicing medicine without a license and should be prosecuted accordingly.