The Supreme Court upheld Oregon's law on physician-assisted suicide yesterday, ruling that the Justice Department may not punish doctors who help terminally ill patients end their lives.
By a vote of 6 to 3, the court ruled that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft exceeded his legal authority in 2001 when he threatened to prohibit doctors from prescribing federally controlled drugs if they authorized lethal doses of the medications under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.
The ruling struck down one of the administration's signature policies regarding what President Bush calls the "culture of life" and lifts the last legal cloud over the state's law, which is unique in the nation. It also frees other states to follow in Oregon's footsteps, unless Congress acts to the contrary.
It is unclear how many states would join Oregon; assisted-suicide initiatives have not fared well in recent years. Still, coming a year after efforts by Republicans in Congress to block the removal of a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, and after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. faced questions from the Senate about their views on end-of-life issues, the court's decision could energize the political debate. Roberts dissented from the ruling, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. (WaPo)
It was surprising to hear about this, considering the court's slant. I wonder how Alito would have voted if he had been on the bench instead of Day O'Conner.
As a Christian and a healthcare worker, I am saddened by this news. I am employed as a crisis counselor, and the majority of people that I see struggle with suicidal thoughts. This ruling goes against what I have been taught: to assist people, no matter their circumstances, in finding reasons for living; to hospitalize people if they are deemed to be at risk or suicide. I can't imagine saying something like, I know that your spouse left you, you're out of a job, you have no friends, you have no money to pay rent, and your children want nothing to do with you. If only you had a terminal illness, then I could hook you up with some doctor that could kill you, oops I mean, end your terrible suffering...