Wednesday, May 07, 2003

In a huge case out here in Oregon, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft will take his challenge to our physician-assisted suicide law before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today in Portland. Ashcroft's attorneys argue that the federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits physicians from dispensing federally controlled drugs for illegitimate medical practices.

This is a total bullshit case. In 1994 Oregon voters approved the Death With Dignity Act, and in 1997 overwhelmingly voted to keep it. Then the DEA got into it with the Controlled Substances Act, then Janet Reno overturned their decision, now Ashcroft's attack.

For Al Willeford, 78, a retired physician suffering from liver cancer, the issue is personal. "John Ashcroft should keep his hands off my personal choice," said Willeford, who spoke along with several other assisted suicide supporters during a Tuesday news conference. "There are plenty of other important national issues he can spend his time on."

For the most part, Oregonians are a compassionate lot and have passed a number of measures that deal directly with a person's right as to how they want to end their own lives at a time and place of their own choosing. We were the first in the nation to pass a medical marijuana bill, which allows people to smoke and grow their own pot to help them deal with the pain of a terminally illness and the nasty side effects of some of the prescription medication, like chemotherapy. People who are dying and have chosen an alternative path to relief don't have to worry about the cops breaking down their doors and arresting them.

This is personal with Ashcroft, but the good news is that his case is very weak, and I expect the courts to back Oregon in this one.