In 1994, Oregon citizens approved legislation allowing doctors to assist terminally ill patients (i.e, patients who are reasonably certain to die within 6 months) who want to bring about a peaceful and painless death. In 1997, Oregon voters rejected a referendum to repeal the law. The democratic process in Oregon twice resulted in a judgment by its citizens that terminally ill individuals should be permitted to have the assistance of their physician in choosing a dignified and peaceful death.
So, Republican opponents of Oregon's assisted suicide law tried and failed: (a) to have Oregon's law repealed by referendum; (b) to induce the Justice Department to revoke the licenses of Oregon's doctors who assisted in suicide; and (c) to enact legislation in Congress giving the Justice Department the right to revoke the registration of doctors assisting in suicide. Again and again, these crusaders were rebuffed by the democratic and legal processes.
It cannot be overstated how reprehensible this is. Ever since September 11, the Bush Administration has insisted again and again that the threat of terrorism is an unprecedented existential threat. We are at "war," and must devote our full attention to capturing terrorists and winning the war, even if it means severely restricting our constitutional liberties and taking other extreme measures to fight this war.
And yet, less than two months after September 11, what was the Justice Department doing? What was the Attorney General's attention devoted to? Working in secret, and in violation of its promises to the State of Oregon, to figure out how it could trample on the democratic process and on principles of states rights which conservatives claim to believe in, all in order to block terminally ill people from choosing how to die because John Ashcroft and James Dobson think that it's immoral to exercise that choice. That's what Ashcroft's DoJ was doing in the weeks after September 11.
The Administration has skillfully used fear-mongering over terrorism to obscure the extent to which intrusive religious conservatism is shaping and molding almost every aspect of U.S. domestic policy. Agencies and sub-agencies which receive relatively little attention but which have great influence on domestic policies have, in many cases, been turned over to religious extremists, and the lack of light being shined on these bureaucratic crevices in Washington means that they are running wild, without any real restraint or opposition.
I'm particularly struck by this today because my brother-in-law died yesterday of leukemia at age 70. He deteriorated over several months due to cancer and pain. I don't know if he would have availed himself of this type of law, were it in effect in California. Probably not. Hope springs eternal, after all, but it would be comforting to have the option. Us old farts think more and more about this shit.
I have always admired Oregon (aka 'California's Canada') for being among the most progressive of states. They don't particularly care for federal intervention up there in matters they feel are theirs to decide, and for this I applaud them.
Rare kudos as well for SCOTUS, for not going along with pseudo-christian bullshit. In this case, at any rate.