Oregon lawmakers again defend assisted suicide law
WASHINGTON – Oregon’s five Democratic members of Congress asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to uphold the nation’s only physician-assisted suicide law.Sen. Ron Wyden and Reps. David Wu, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Darlene Hooley filed a brief opposing efforts by the Bush administration to overturn the state’s law.The lawmakers claim that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is improperly interfering with the state’s traditional power to regulate medicine and say his actions have no basis in federal law.The arguments are similar to ones the lawmakers made in a 2002 brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.The appeals court later upheld the law, but then-Attorney General John Ashcroft appealed the ruling last November, on the day his resignation was announced.Arguments are expected at the high court in October.The administration says federal drug laws prohibit doctors from prescribing lethal doses. The Justice Department in 2001 said it would use the federal Controlled Substances Act to punish doctors who prescribe overdoses since physician-assisted suicide is not a “legitimate medical purpose.”Since the Oregon law took effect in 1997, more than 170 people have used it to end their lives. The law is meant for only extremely sick people – those with incurable diseases who two doctors agree have six months or less to live and are of sound mind.A decision to overturn the law could have a “chilling effect” on pain management nationwide, the lawmakers said. Doctors may hesitate to prescribe significant pain medication for fear a patient may use it to commit suicide – and put the doctor at legal risk, the lawmakers said.