Apr 17, 2002
A federal judge on Wednesday upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law--the only such law in any US state--scuttling Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to strike it down.
The decision, a victory for advocates of the terminally ill, followed a decree by Ashcroft seeking to ban physician-assisted deaths.
Ashcroft declared that physician-assisted suicide was not a "legitimate medical purpose" and threatened to impose criminal penalties on physicians who helped patients die. Ashcroft said the federal Controlled Substances Act barred physicians from using drugs to help patients commit suicide.
Issuing his ruling on Wednesday, Oregon US District Judge Robert Jones said "the Ashcroft directive is not entitled to deference under any standard and is invalid." He added the Controlled Substances Act "does not prohibit practitioners from prescribing and dispensing controlled substances in compliance with a carefully worded state legislative act."
Oregon voters approved the Death with Dignity Act in 1994 and reaffirmed
it in 1997. Since 1997, at least 70 people, most of them terminally ill,
have committed suicide with drugs.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd