Judge: Ashcroft overstepped duties in enforcing law, but doctors don't overstep when they kill
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones ruled yesterday that the Department of Justice can't block Oregon's assisted-suicide law. The attorney general, Jones said, has no authority "to decide, as a matter of national policy, a question of such magnitude as whether physician-assisted suicide constitutes a legitimate medical purpose or practice." When Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to use federal drug laws to punish doctors who killed their patients, it was an effort "to get through the administrative door what they could not get through the Congressional door, seeking refuge with the newly appointed attorney general whose ideology matched their views."

That administrative door is apparently still closed, reports The Oregonian. "The decision … could inflame election year rhetoric in Congress, but decisive action against the law is unlikely soon," reports the Portland paper. Democrats control the Senate, and Republicans don't want to risk putting Sen. Gordon Smith against the Oregon voters who approved an assisted-suicide measure in 1994 and reaffirmed it in 1997. "If there were a Republican who was determined to press ahead on this, I think he would certainly get a lot of informal pressure from his colleagues to back off," Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker tells the paper. "The last thing any Republican would want is to lose a Republican senator."

Meanwhile, religious and profamily groups are really upset. "Oregon's argument that its 'Death with Dignity Act' regulates the practice of medicine and that Ashcroft's order interferes with its state right to do so is preposterous on its face," says the Family ...

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