Pubdate: Wed, 21 Nov 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Elizabeth T. Weiss, M.D. and Alan Garber, M.D.
Bookmark: (Ashcroft, John)
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


Under cover of the war on terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft is 
attacking the will of our own people. Not busy enough, Ashcroft directed 
federal drug agents to go after physicians in Oregon who work with 
terminally ill patients wishing to participate in aid in dying, a practice 
legal in Oregon since 1997. Ashcroft, an avowed opponent of assisted 
suicide, has decided his values count more than the Supreme Court, states' 
rights or the will of the people of Oregon.

The Supreme Court deliberated on Oregon's legislation and determined that 
it was within the purview of each state to decide this issue. The people of 
Oregon voted that their terminally ill citizens have the right to 
assistance in dying. Seventy people with terminal illnesses have taken 
advantage of this law to hasten their death since 1997. Thousands of 
terminally ill people have been comforted by the knowledge they had some 
control over how they might die.

John Ashcroft has unilaterally assessed this to be "inappropriate 
prescribing of controlled substances" worthy of prosecution. A petition 
filed by Oregon officials has blocked Ashcroft's directive for now, but 
doctors say a pall has already fallen over the work done by doctors caring 
for the terminally ill in Oregon.

Ashcroft's job is to enforce our country's laws. As feared prior to his 
confirmation, he seems to view it as realigning our laws with his beliefs. 
This insidious threat to democracy is both frightening and enraging. We 
must be vigilant, as President Bush calls us to be, to watch for threats to 
democracy on all fronts. We don't expect them from our own government. But 
let us not be blind to the domestic agenda of the most conservative 
elements of this administration hiding behind our focus on foreign policy.

Elizabeth T. Weiss, M.D., Alan Garber, M.D., Maine Death with Dignity 
Center, Orono
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