Few topics generate as much emotion as the question of assisted suicide or right-to-die laws such as the one approved in Oregon. The issue is religious in nature and charged with emotion. And it has been a 10-year legal battle since first approved by Oregon voters.
Though many may disagree with my position, I have long advocated physician-assisted suicides such as narrowly defined in Oregon. That law says that a person who has six months or less to live resulting from a terminal illness may approach a physician and receive a lethal dose of a federally controlled drug. In Oregon, two physicians must agree that the illness is indeed terminal before the drugs can be prescribed.
If a person is in pain and has no hope of surviving, it seems to me that allowing that patient a choice on how and when to die is a humane act. Oregon thus far is the only state with such legislation. It has been twice approved by voters there and twice survived court cases on its legality. The latest court case was decided just last week when a federal court ruled against Attorney General John Ashcroft who was attempting to halt the practice by denying drugs to any physician who participated in the right-to-die program.
I have long advocated the rights of each state to approve laws that are supported by the majority of the residents of that state. Granted, there are some laws that undermine federal legislation and the courts decide on those issues. But the law in Oregon is extremely limited and the federal government now needs to back off and recognize the wishes of Oregon residents. Hopefully last week's ruling will close the case once and for all.
Virtually every case - 171 in 10 years - has revolved around a cancer patient in the final stages of the terminal illness. When there remains no medical hope, I don't understand the opposition to allowing a person to get their house in order, say their farewells and end their suffering and pain. Until medical science can change that inevitable aspect, the Oregon law makes humane and compassionate sense to me.