Ashcroft Seeks Dismissal of Oregon Assisted Suicide Suit
Attorney General John Ashcroft asked a federal district court yesterday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to prevent him from overuling Oregon's assisted-suicide law, the Washington Post reports. Attorneys for Ashcroft "reiterated" the attorney general's main argument that taking the life of a terminally ill patient is not a "legitimate medical purpose" for federally controlled drugs. The dispute stems from a directive Ashcroft sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration in November instructing the agency to take away the prescribing licenses of physicians who use controlled drugs to assist in suicides, a practice allowed by Oregon's law. Because doctors typically prescribe federally controlled barbiturates to terminally ill patients, Ashcroft's order, if upheld, would effectively override Oregon's law. Oregon sued to block the attorney general's directive, and U.S. District Judge Robert Jones granted the state's request for a temporary restraining order. In yesterday's filing, Ashcroft's attorneys said the district court has "no standing" to hear the case and "rejected Oregon's claim that Ashcroft violated the Constitution" by issuing the directive. A final ruling from Jones could come this spring, although appeals could take years (Washington Post, 2/22). Under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, twice approved by voters and the only law of its kind in the nation, doctors may provide but not administer a lethal prescription to terminally ill patients who are Oregon residents. Two physicians must concur that the patient has fewer than six months to live, has voluntarily chosen to die and is able to make health-related decisions (California Healthline, 11/09/01).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.