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Archive for Monday, May 6, 2002

The right to die

May 6, 2002

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Oregon's right-to-die legislation is upheld despite John Ashcroft's intervention.

The older a person becomes, the more inclined he or she is to believe there ought to be personal choices about when one exits this life.

Such people and their ranks are growing among both the old and the young are likely to be pleased with the recent ruling of a federal judge upholding the state of Oregon's approach to the right-to-die.

Comments the Star Tribune of Minneapolis:

" . . . this lone federal judge took a slap at Attorney General John Ashcroft for snubbing the will of the people of Oregon. And what do the Oregonians want? Only the opportunity to decide how they'll live and die. This is pretty much what all Americans want, and U.S. District Judge Robert Jones wisely affirmed their right to have it."

Ashcroft had decided the federal government could topple Oregon's voter-approved law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients choose an easier death. Ashcroft last November insisted that death-hastening prescriptions do not fulfill a "legitimate medical purpose." He declared such treatments should be banned and that doctors who write the prescriptions should be punished.

Adds the Star Tribune: "No statute of any sort, Judge Jones found, authorizes the attorney general to decide how doctors should practice medicine. Thus Ashcroft had no business substituting his judgment for that of Oregon's citizens who, the judge noted, "have chosen to resolve the moral, legal and ethical debate on physician-assisted suicide for themselves by voting not once, but twice in favor of the Oregon act."

For now, at least, the people of Oregon are free to live or die as they choose without fear of federal intervention or punishment. That is as it should be, and precisely how a growing number of Americans feel about the issue.

The Oregon law does not force anyone to make life-or-death choices; it only allows such moves to be made. Ashcroft is not a shrinking violet and there is a chance he may appeal the Jones ruling.

But before he does so, he needs to take into account that the citizens of the state twice have approved the right-to-die legislation and do not want Washington dictating their feelings. Oregonians have many soulmates across the country.

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