Chief Justice Roberts will visit the first politically charged case in his young career today, when the SCOTUS hears arguments regarding the Oregon physician-assisted suicide provision:
The Supreme Court will revisit the emotionally charged issue of physician-assisted suicide in a test of the federal government’s power to block doctors from helping terminally ill patients end their lives.
Oregon is the only state that lets dying patients obtain lethal doses of medication from their doctors, although other states may pass laws of their own if the high court rules against the federal government. Voters in Oregon have twice endorsed doctor-assisted suicide, but the Bush administration has aggressively challenged the state law.
The case, the first major one to come before the new chief justice, John Roberts, will be heard by justices touched personally by illness. Three justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens have had cancer, and a fourth Stephen Breyer has a spouse who counsels young cancer patients who are dying.
Their longtime colleague, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who once wrote about the “earnest and profound debate” over doctor-assisted suicide, died a month ago after battling untreatable cancer for nearly a year.
Pretty obviously, I support the right for people to end their misery, or at least have the option to end their misery, and if we want to talk about basic rights, I feel that individuals should have the basic right to control their own destiny (whether or not that is reflected in the Constitution is another matter). That isn’t what this case is about, per se, as this is really about whether federal drug laws can dictate how state authorities behave.
In other words, it is another example of the so called advocates of ‘states rights’ throwing principle out the window to cater to their pet issues and radical base. That in and of itself is enough to irritate me, but when you couple this attitude with the fact that the same crowd has been waging war on physicians through the DEA’s war on doctors and patients (and if you do not read Radley Balko’s The Agititator, you are really missing out- he has done a tremendous job following the prosecution of doctors), and you understand why this issue makes me even angrier.
For whatever reason, vocal advocates within the ‘pro-life’ community are against assisted suicide, but are also against adequate pain treatment- or at least the real worry is that dying patients might get addicted to pain medicine. The attitude of some, it seems, is that you are supposed to die, in pain, helpless, desperate, and without proper relief, because that is how Christ would have wanted you to go.
And that sends me into what can only be described as a volcanic rage.