Last week, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote in Oregon v. Gonzales, struck down the right of the federal government to prohibit doctors from prescribing lethal doses of medication to patients who want to commit suicide. The court was weighing Oregon's controversial, voter-approved Death with Dignity Act, which applies to patients who have been diagnosed as terminally ill and who have six months or less to live.

The federal Controlled Substances Act, however, permits the government to permit a drug's use only for a "legitimate medical purpose." According to a CT news report, "In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a directive 'that assisting suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" … and that prescribing, dispensing, or administering federally controlled substances to assist suicide violates the CSA.' "

Apparently states now have the right to decide whether suicide is a "legitimate medical purpose."

Absent a push in Congress for a law specifically targeting euthanasia (not likely given public sentiment related to last year's Terri Schiavo case), expect more states to enact such legislation now that the high court has given them the green light.

This is a return to the paganism of ancient Rome, when the old were left to die. Yes, sometimes pulling the plug is the only compassionate option we have, such as in cases of brain death. But expect the pressure to increase on those with much less dire conditions to seek their own demise.

As Diane Coleman of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet notes, "Making suicide easy and socially approved for people who . . . feel like burdens on their families, is discrimination against a socially devalued group. Assisted suicide is not a benefit; it's a threat." Indeed, a report ...

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